|GRADING THE GRADERS
Is teacher testing the best way to improve academic achievement?
October 1, 1998
in this forum:
Questions asked in this forum: Can the public view these tests? What is the best allocation of education funds? Who creates the tests, and are they fair? Additional Comments.
September 15, 1998
Massachussets institutes a controversial teacher testing plan.
September 17, 1997
Online NewsHour Forum:two Senators debate national education standards.
September 8, 1997:
Are standardized tests the best route to better grades?
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of Education.
The Department of Education
A question from John Mudd of Cambridge, MA:
Just as students should not be judged by one high-stakes test, neither should teachers. And each city and state should not have to re-invent the wheel. Which state and which big city have implemented the most effective teacher assessment system, and which state or city has the best student assessment system?
Dr. John Silber, the chancellor of Boston University and chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education, answers:
Because of the nature of the tests given teachers, one high-stakes test is quite adequate--not to determine that a teacher is competent but to reveal the incompetence of a prospective teacher. The examination offered in Massachusetts simply required basic competence in the English language that one should expect of any college graduate and competence in the subject matter each candidate proposed to teach.
While no one would claim that passing these tests is all that is required to be a good teacher, failure on such tests is quite sufficient to demonstrate that the candidate who failed is not prepared to enter the profession. It clearly indicates that further education is necessary. The principle involved here is this: one cannot competently teach what one does not know.
Prior to the early 1970s many school systems, including Boston, had rigorous tests for teachers. New York State had the Regents examination which was an excellent test guaranteeing the integrity of the New York State high school diploma. Very few cities or states have such requirements today. The examination Massachusetts requires of persons seeking teaching certificates is more demanding, I believe, than the one offered in Texas.
Beyond that I am not qualified to comment. Nevertheless, the Massachusetts examination, so far as literacy is concerned, is one that I would expect all "A" students to be able to pass by the time they graduate from high school and all "C" students should be able to pass on graduation from college. In fact, no one should be graduated from college who cannot pass our test of literacy. The failure rate among those taking the examination in Massachusetts both in April and in June indicates the extent to which high school diplomas and college degrees are too often fraudulent documents offering meaningless credentials. It is our hope that the requirement of this examination will help restore integrity to both high school diplomas and college degrees.