Teacher Preparation

Georgia Proposal Would Put Education Schools to the Test

By Julie Blair — December 13, 2000 6 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

State officials in Georgia are considering shutting the doors of several public and private schools of education if their graduates continue to perform poorly on teacher-licensing exams.

The recommendation, made by the Education Reform Study Commission set up by Gov. Roy E. Barnes, would mandate that at least 80 percent of graduates of every racial and ethnic group earn passing scores on the PRAXIS II test.

Jan Kettlewell, the assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs for the university system of Georgia and a member of a committee that helped draft the policy for the study commission, said the proposal was modeled in part on a similar policy in Texas

“It is a good policy,” she said. “If students in any one [demographic] group are not doing well, the institution is in a position to provide supplemental support and additional resources to get them up to the standards.”

But critics worry that the policy ultimately would cut into the number of minority educators entering the profession at a time when the state is suffering a teacher shortage. They say colleges would be so afraid of having their programs shut down that they would screen out students deemed less well- prepared in an attempt to raise the schools’ passing rates. Such students often come from poor families and receive lesser-quality K-12 educations, but still make fine teachers, the critics argue.

The commission acknowledges that the proposed regulations could pose particular problems for teacher-preparation programs at the state’s historically black colleges and universities, given that African-American students tend to score lower on the licensing tests than their white peers do.

Majority-white institutions would still need to meet the 80 percent passing rate for their black students, but state officials say the challenge those schools face is less daunting because of the relatively smaller number of minority students enrolled in their teacher education programs.

In Georgia, prospective teachers are required to pass the PRAXIS II exam before earning their licenses. The exam, produced by the Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J., assesses educators’ knowledge of the subjects they are hoping to teach.

Gov. Barnes, a Democrat, is currently reviewing the reform commission’s proposal. Legislative approval would not be required for it to be implemented, state officials said.

Federal Mandate in Store

The commission’s recommendation precedes by only a few months the implementation of a federal mandate intended to ensure greater accountability for schools of education.

Under Title II of the Higher Education Act as reauthorized in 1998, both colleges and states must present report cards to Congress and the public next year outlining their teacher- preparation programs and providing data on teacher assessment, certification, and licensure for the programs’ graduates. Schools of education will be ranked within each state. (“Teacher Ed. Riled Over Federal Plan,” Aug. 4, 1999.)

As part of Georgia’s effort to comply with federal law, the state’s professional-standards commission, which licenses teachers, is proposing a plan that is in some ways similar to the one suggested by the reform panel, said Fran Watkins, the standards commission’s Title II coordinator.

That plan also would mandate that 80 percent of all graduates pass the PRAXIS II test for a program to be certified and provide for education schools that didn’t make the grade to be shut down, Ms. Watkins said. But it does not call for breaking down students’ scores by race and ethnicity.

Teacher-preparation programs can be closed if they lose accreditation under the current system, Ms. Watkins pointed out. Graduates’ test scores on the PRAXIS II are considered, but far less importance is placed on passing rates than would be under either proposal. No Georgia school of education has ever lost accreditation under the existing system, the state reports.

It is unclear whether other states will opt to break down test scores of candidates for teaching licenses by race and ethnicity under the Title II requirements, said Ed Crowe, the director of the Title II Teacher Quality Program for the U.S. Department of Education. States face an October 2001 deadline for filing their first teacher-preparation report cards with the department.

Arthur E. Wise, the president of the Washington-based National Association for Accreditation of Teacher Education, warned that the proposed Georgia policy could produce negative side effects.

“It is not an unreasonable expectation that the vast majority of students be expected to reveal that they have [content] knowledge,” he said. “But one of the worst consequences is that it could close the teaching profession to some people.”

Under the plan outlined by the governor’s reform commission, the passing rate on the PRAXIS II would be only one of several criteria used to determine whether teacher-training programs received state accreditation, Ms. Kettlewell said. But unless the mandated number of graduates passed the test, institutions would lose their accreditation to prepare educators.

The policy would be phased in, so schools of education would not be in immediate jeopardy, Ms. Kettlewell added. Programs would also have time to improve before being closed, she said.

Mr. Wise of NCATE said it was troubling that the plan calls for punishing only schools of education, when colleges’ arts and sciences departments are actually responsible for much of the subject-matter instruction that aspiring teachers receive.

At least 16 of the 34 teacher-preparation programs in Georgia failed to get more than 80 percent of their graduates to pass the exam in the 1999-2000 academic year, data from the state professional- standards commission show. Only three schools had all of their graduates clear that hurdle.

None of the state’s six teacher-preparation programs at historically black colleges and universities made the grade. The passing rate at those institutions ranged from 30 percent to 75 percent. The schools together produce a large segment of Georgia’s black teaching workforce.

“Those institutions would have the farthest to go, but it is doable,” Ms. Kettlewell said.

She points to Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Ga., as an example.

In 1998, 36 percent of graduates passed the PRAXIS II at the historically black university, said Curtis Martin, the dean of the college of education. Last year, 47 percent of graduates passed the test, thanks to a new standards-based grading system, he said.

Tried in Texas

Georgians can look to Texas to predict how the Education Reform Study Commission’s proposed policy might play out.

In 1998, that state mandated that 70 percent of a college’s teacher-training graduates from each racial and ethnic group, as well as both genders, pass state academic-content and pedagogy tests. In 2002, the state plans to raise the bar to 75 percent.

Since the implementation of the policy, 16 teacher-preparation programs have failed to meet the current goal and were placed on probation, state documents show. Six institutions are now considered “accredited—under review” and have been given deadlines to improve or face closure. One program will lose accreditation next year if it does not improve by the end of the current school year.

While some Texas education schools have responded to the new system by toughening their entrance requirements, others have worked to better meet students’ needs once they’ve enrolled, said John J. Beck, the dean of the college of education at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and a member of the state board that certifies teachers.

The state has not collected data to find out whether the supply of minority educators has shrunk, Mr. Beck said.

“It is a mixed bag,” he said. “But from the state perspective, we feel that the exit exam is necessary for accountability and for public reassurance that the people who have graduated have a knowledge base that will help them become successful teachers.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 13, 2000 edition of Education Week as Georgia Proposal Would Put Education Schools to the Test


Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Achievement Webinar
Mission Possible: Saving Time While Improving Student Outcomes
Learn how district leaders are maximizing instructional time and finding the best resources for student success through their MTSS framework.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Reading & Literacy K-12 Essentials Forum Writing and the Science of Reading
Join us for this free event as we highlight and discuss the intersection of reading and writing with Education Week reporters and expert guests.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teacher Preparation Q&A A New Program Will Train Teachers to Teach Climate Change, Without the 'Doom and Gloom'
Climate change is a subject experts say goes beyond science class, and one that should be woven through subjects and grade levels.
8 min read
Photo of graph being drawn on whiteboard.
iStock / Getty Images Plus
Teacher Preparation Here's What Separates the Best Teacher Mentors from the Just-Sort-of-OK Ones
They're empathetic listeners who offer lots of constructive feedback, our readers say.
2 min read
Black woman watering and growing a flower in which sits a happy white girl.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teacher Preparation Apprenticeships Are the New Frontier of Teacher Preparation. Here's How They Work
States are using federal labor funding to support the hands-on approach to teacher training and remove cost barriers for would-be teachers.
8 min read
Silhouette of a woman with her arms crossed and looming over a classroom watching the teacher instruct her classroom
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teacher Preparation As Charter Schools Rise, Fewer Graduate From Undergrad Teacher Prep. Why?
The finding—among the first to look at how charters impact the teacher pipeline—has fueled debate.
7 min read
Image of a teacher in a classroom working with students.