Teacher Preparation

States Set Varying Passing Bars on New Teaching Exam

By Stephen Sawchuk — June 03, 2015 1 min read
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As they begin to set policies around a new performance-based licensing test for teachers, states are setting the bar in a variety of different places—a phenomenon that raises questions about across-state comparisons.

The edTPA is a licensing exam that, among other things, requires candidates to submit a video of their teaching and analyze it. Some 12 states are in various stages of requiring the exam for teachers.

When they set cutoff scores for the test, or the score a candidate has to achieve to pass, states take into account things like projected supply and demand in addition to quality issues.

Below are some states’ cutoff scores for most middle and secondary teachers. The top score is 75 points and the test’s creators have suggested putting the passing bar no higher than 42. (The score setting is different for elementary and world-language teachers.) Note also that many states have established grace periods or “safety nets” for candidates.


  • California: 41, but programs can choose to use three other exams instead.
  • Iowa: 41, but candidates can take alternate exams.
  • Illinois: A 35 for now, but ramping up to a 41 by 2019.
  • New York: 41, but implementation has been twice delayed.
  • Tennessee: Each program sets the passing score; it must be at least a 37.
  • Washington: 35

Having different cutoffs means that it won’t be as easy to compare candidates’ performance across institutions or states, which potentially raises wrinkles for things like licensure reciprocity.

Minnesota is using the exam not for candidate licensure but as one component of assessing teacher-preparation programs, so its grading system is a bit different. Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Georgia, and Oregon will require the test but haven’t yet set cutoff scores.

For more details, see this recent document from the edTPA creators.

The issue of comparability is facing student tests, too. As colleague Catherine Gewertz reported late last year, it’s still unclear whether states will abide by the recommended cutoff scores crafted by the two assessment consortia designing tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards. And just this week, the American Federation of Teachers said it wants states to abandon cutoff scores on student exams altogether.

for the latest news on teacher policy and politics.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.


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