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For Immediate Release
Monday, June 22, 1998
Contact:Alan Safran

Massachusetts Board of Education Sets Passing Score for Teacher Test

Malden - The Massachusetts Board of Education and Education Commissioner Frank W. Haydu III today set a new, higher standard for prospective teachers to become certified.

The Board of Education accepted Commissioner Haydu's recommendation to set the qualifying scores for the first Massachusetts tests for prospective teachers. As a result, the Board raised state standards for new educators by setting the qualifying score at a level that prevents 800 candidates from becoming certified. Previously, these candidates would have been eligible for teacher certification if they possessed a bachelor's degree.

Thirty-two percent of the 1,800 candidates, nearly 600 test-takers, did not meet the qualifying score on the communication and literacy test, and others failed to meet the qualifying score for the test in their specific academic areas. In total, forty-four percent of candidates who took the April tests for teacher certification did not meet the qualifying scores.

The tests were given in April for the first time as a condition for certification as required by the 1993 Education Reform Act. It calls for teacher certification candidates to take and pass a test measuring communication and literacy skills and knowledge of subject matter, in order to become entry-level teachers. Massachusetts public school teachers must be certified by the state first in order to seek employment locally, except in rare circumstances. Massachusetts joins 43 other states in requiring a test for certification.

In recommending that the Board set the April qualifying scores at a specific level, Commissioner Haydu cited the fact that other states have set teacher test passing scores at two or three "standard errors of measurement" below recommendations of panels of educators in their states. Panels of Massachusetts educators had made a recommendation for qualifying scores, but Commissioner Haydu, after consulting with teachers, business leaders, legislators and deans of colleges and universities, decided that one standard error of measurement ought to be allowed on the first round. "I made this recommendation with the intent to move the bar swiftly up to the Massachusetts panels' recommended passing levels," he said. Beginning in October, the required qualifying scores will be raised to those levels.

Citing the issue of fairness in setting the initial qualifying score lower, Commissioner Haydu said that this test has never been given or taken in Massachusetts before this spring, that the new test is challenging, and it, like all tests, includes some measurement error.

Commissioner Haydu stated, "I believe these initial qualifying scores are a fair compromise to first-timers, while we strive to make sure that all new teachers are competent to stand in front of kids in classrooms. I am very concerned about the high rate of failure. It is serious, and these results are a wake-up call for all of us."

The two tests, each four hours long, were taken by college graduates aspiring to become public school teachers. The tests measure reading comprehension, writing skills, spelling, punctuation and grammar and knowledge of subject matter in 30 separate areas as well.

Within the next week, results of the tests will be sent to all test-takers, their colleges and to the Department of Education. Those who failed may re-take the test for free on July 11 or in October.

In related action, the Board of Education voted today to require candidates for certification as administrators (principals, superintendents, supervisors), and for support services (library media specialist, school psychologist, school nurse, etc.) to also take and pass the new test of communication and literacy, as a condition for certification. This requirement will be effective beginning September 1st.

Last Updated: June 22, 1998
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