DOE To Review Why Minority Teacher Candidates Are Struggling With MTEL- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106

DOE To Review Why Minority Teacher Candidates Are Struggling With MTEL

MALDEN - The Department of Education is asking its Educational Personnel Advisory Council (EPAC) to review why so many minority and non-native English speaking teacher candidates are struggling to pass the state's licensure exam.

According to results from the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) administered during the 2005-2006 school year, 77 percent of white teacher candidates passed the writing exam, as compared to just 48 percent of Hispanic and 46 percent of Black test-takers. On the Reading exam 86 percent of white test takers passed, as compared to 62 percent of black and 61 percent of Hispanic candidates.

"The MTEL exams have helped to ensure that our incoming teachers have, at minimum, a basic understanding of reading, writing and their subject matter," said Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. "Our students get great benefit from working with teachers of different ethnicities, so it is critical that we determine what is holding back our minority teacher candidates, and what can be done to help them."

The Department, working with the EPAC, will convene school administrators, professionals involved in preparing new educators, newly licensed teachers, and individuals still trying to pass the tests to try and better understand the barriers to passing these tests. All suggestions will be considered, but no changes that could allow less knowledgeable and effective teachers to be licensed will be made.

According to the 2005-2006 MTEL results:

  • The passing rate was significantly higher on the Communications and Literacy exams for native English speakers: 77 percent passed the writing and 86 percent passed the Reading exam. In comparison, among Spanish speakers, 32 percent passed the Writing and 39 percent passed the Reading exam; among Portuguese speakers 32 percent passed the Writing and 51 percent passed the Reading exam.
  • Female test-takers outperformed their male colleagues on several of the subject matter exams: on the Foundations of Reading test 71 percent of Female test takers passed, as compared to 60 percent of males; on the Reading Specialist test 70 percent of females passed as compared to 48 percent of males; and on Health education 72 percent of females passed as compared to 46 percent of males.
  • 16,383 took the Writing test, and 14,888 took the Reading exam. Among the subject matter tests, 14,217 took Communications and Literacy Skills, 6,319 took Foundations of Reading, 4,840 took General Curriculum, 1,568 took English, 1,377 took history and 1,355 took math. Less than 1,000 people took any of the other exams.

To be licensed, all prospective teachers must demonstrate that they are knowledgeable and competent in how to teach their subject. All educators are required to take and pass both the Communications and Literacy Skills MTEL exam and at least one subject matter test before they can become certified to teach in a Massachusetts public school.

This policy was included in the 1993 Education Reform Act, and the first test was administered in 1998. There are currently 39 different exams offered, including the Communications and Literacy exams. The 37 subject matter tests range from reading to history to math to music, dance or theater.

The MTEL exams are given several times each year and educators are allowed to retake the exams as many times as needed to become certified.

For more information on educator licensure, look online at

Last Updated: May 31, 2007

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