The following is a statement released today by Frank W. Haydu III, Commissioner of Education (ad interim), on the matter of the Massachusetts Teacher Tests:
Background: Teacher licensure
Massachusetts has three levels of teacher licensure. The Preliminary license requires a bachelor's degree in the arts and sciences, 24 credits in the subject area, evidence of sound moral character, and the new requirement: passing a two-part test including communication and literacy skills and appropriate subject matter knowledge. The Advanced Preliminary license requires all of the above plus 18 credits in education plus successful student teaching experience. Each of these licenses is valid for five years of employment in a public school. The Standard license is granted to a candidate who meets the requirements for the Preliminary or Advanced Preliminary license, and who in addition has completed a master's degree or equivalent program as well as successful clinical experience appropriate to the license. Standard licenses must be renewed every five years.
In November 1996 the Board of Education voted to notify all colleges and universities preparing teachers in Massachusetts that as of January 1998, all candidates for teacher licensure would be required to take and pass a two-part test including communication and literacy skills and appropriate subject matter knowledge, as required by state law. The Commissioner sent notice of the 1998 testing requirement to all education deans, college licensure officers, school administrators and other interested parties. The Department of Education then began the process of selecting a test vendor and preparing for the development and administration of the tests.
In January 1998 the Department published a Question and Answer booklet on the Massachusetts Teacher Tests, noting that the first test administrations would take place on April 4 and July 11, 1998. The booklet included a statement that candidates who take the tests on these dates "will satisfy the testing requirement automatically." When I became Commissioner, I saw what I perceived to be a potential hole in the policy for implementing the first two rounds of the teacher tests. There was the potential for a misimpression on the part of some prospective teachers. It was possible that some candidates could believe that they could just sign their name instead of taking the tests seriously. It was also possible that the Department would be certifying new teachers who took the test, but performed poorly.
Therefore, the Department clarified our policies in a March 25, 1998 letter to licensure candidates, informing them that beginning with the April 4th tests, anyone who takes the tests will be required to meet the qualifying score for each test. This was entirely consistent with the message that was conveyed to higher education institutions and candidates in November 1996. And we have told teacher candidates who are taking the tests in April and July that they have several options for rescheduling or retaking the tests at no added cost.
We have accelerated the schedule for setting a qualifying score on the test, so that all test-takers -- including those who proceed to take the test in April -- will need to achieve a qualifying score in order to be eligible for licensure. This is a test which has consequences.
All new teachers will be taking tests. In the 31 areas where we have a subject area test, they will take that test as well as a test of their communications skills. In the few areas where the state does not yet have a subject area test, new teacher candidates will take the communications test. The point we are emphasizing is that we are raising standards for entry into the profession.
The teacher test is an integral part of education reform in Massachusetts. Students can meet high standards only if teachers are well-qualified to teach them. The teacher test, which is mandated by state law in Massachusetts, is one way to assure that teachers are prepared with the subject area knowledge they must have to be effective in the classroom.
I stand by the professional staff of the Department who are responsible for implementing the Massachusetts Teacher Tests. By making clear that the test "counts," starting with the very first administration of the test, we are ensuring that the test will be taken seriously. Education reform means high standards, for students, for schools and for teachers.