Teaching: Is The New Test Too Hard?

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Is the new cutoff for teaching candidates too high, too fast, or is 75 percent just fine?  A couple of news accounts of the latest kerfluffle:  Fewer teacher candidates pass basic skills test Catalyst: Overall,
the number of candidates who passed the exam dropped from 85 percent in
previous years to 22 percent in September. Three percent of black test
takers passed, down from 56 percent, and 7 percent of Latinos, down from
68 percent... Community group argues new teacher entrance exam is bad for minorities
WBEZ: Students used to be able to squeak by with getting 35 percent of
the math questions right. Now they have to get 75 percent of those
questions right.


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  • The best way to equalize racial disparity is through education. All students deserve to be taught by teachers who have a high level of basic skills. Those who can't pass should avail themselves of additional classes until they master the skills they need. Dumbing down the test to ensure more minorities pass helps nobody and harms all.

  • It is so funny.Americans born in the USA are unable to master English and fail to pass the basic skills test and still blame others.
    My Polish mentality perhaps does not allow me discuss such obvious matter.
    I was able to pass not only basic skills and subject matter tests but LBS1,Chief School Bussines Official,Director of Special Education,and General Administrative as well.
    Discussing the above subject is annoying.

  • You are right.Typos happened.Congratulations.I would be proud of such accomplishments.

  • Wow.You are so skilled,guys.BTW how many languages do you speak?

  • It is my understanding that about 50% of whites who took the Basic Skills test also did not pass. So it seems that the problem does go well beyond race and goes to the majors high skilled people are selecting, which in part is based on the expected life time monetary returns the major has.

    One reason that Teach for America interns have much higher formal test scores than many traditionally trained education majors has a lot to do with the college majors these students have and the more difficult universities they attended. However, as was pointed out on the Catalyst website there is no clear link between a high scoring teacher and their students outcomes.

    Given the level of failure on the new Basic Skills test with higher requirements for passing something is very wrong. We cannot as a society have an urban teaching force which is overwhelmingly white teaching students who are overwhelmingly minority. Clearly something needs to be done.

    Rod Estvan

  • Attitude?He is right.For many people the language should not be a problem because they were born in English speaking country.
    Shame on people who can not perform in their own tongue.Do we have a control where were we born?
    The problem is that USA is a country with one of the worst educational systems in the world.So,do not blame teachers,blame the lack of responsibility and lack of desire to be educated.Blame the political correctness.All of us or our ancestors are/were immigrants.Some people arrived here involuntarily ,but now all of us are proud Americans.So take another look.Possibly not all of our students have qualifications to be college bound, but possibly they have skills to be good carpenters or auto mechanics.
    The king is without clothes!

  • Attitude?It looks like he is right.Many professionals born abroad are much better qualified than born Americans.BTW we do not have a control over our birthplaces.Shame on people who were born in English speaking country and were unable to pass tests in ENGLISH.All of us are immigrants or our ancestors were immigrants.Some of us arrived here involuntarily.Are you going to tell them go back to Liberia or so?All of us are proud Americans now.Time to take another look.Do not blame teachers .Blame the system.Blame the political correctness.Do we really believe that all of our students are college bound?Perhaps they have skills to be good carpenters or auto mechanics. So far we have one of the worst educational system in the world.Look around.Do you see many young people who are responsible for their own destiny?Look at your students and attendance rate in your school.
    King is without clothes,folks.

  • many of the same sentiments, put somewhat more politely, over at the catalyst comments section -- over all i'd say that the harder test side is winning the debate, though it's certainly possible that the politics will force ISBE to back off


  • A while ago, CPD was under scrutiny because many police officers were failing the Sgt's exam. The race card was played, but without results. Mayor Daley replied to the complaints with this: they should study.

    The good side of making the basic skills harder means job security for those of us who already have our certificates.

  • I found it interesting that one poster thought my statement: "We cannot as a society have an urban teaching force which is overwhelmingly white teaching students who are overwhelmingly minority. Clearly something needs to be done," was reactionary.

    My basis for this position comes from having taught in a 99% black CPS high school as a white teacher and two other life experiences. It was absolutely critical that these students had black role models as teachers. There were many things that African American teachers could do that I could not in the context we were in.

    Given the basic skills test pass data we have just seen we are looking at an overwhelmingly white teaching force within just 15 years. Currently 44.8% of CPS teachers are black or hispanic given the the basic skills failure rate for these two groups it is a mathematical certainty unless something is done the numbers of minority teachers will fall off the table.

    Life experience #1 for me was that I attended a CPS high school that was 80% black and hispanic in the 1970s, Robert A Waller now Lincoln Park. We had zero Hispanic teachers and we had about two black teachers, but all black police in the school. The reality of that school was years of rioting and endless suspensions and explusions of minority students.

    Life experience #2 is my work with special education and the Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools. There are 59 schools directly run by the BIA and another 124 are tribally operated under contracts or grants. The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approves the continuing collection of information to prove Indian preference in employment in these schools. Preference in filling vacancies in all BIA run schools is given to qualified Indian candidates in accordance with the Indian Preference Act of 1934 (Title 25, USC, Section 472). I found this to have been a good policy, even if academically stronger non-Native American teachers were passed over for theoretically less skilled Native American teachers.

    The reason for this preference is clear, Native Americans were for many years taught by white largely religous, christian, teachers and they were taught more than the three Rs, they were also taught to assimilate into white society. While the legal status of African Americans and Hispanics in the US is not comparable to that of Native Americans there are still critical cultural issues that must be considered in our society which is not race blind and in Chicago highly segragated in housing. Therefore I do believe there should be a preference in employment of minorities in CPS schools that are overwhelmingly minority in composition and located in minority communities. I do not think these schools' faculties should become overwhelmingly white.

    Rod Estvan

  • I would very much like to see national data that indicates on a nation wide basis China out performs the US in k-12 education statistics. I think the data clearly indicates that rural education in China is still weak and the best teachers want to go to the cities. China is a vast country with a massive population, but it has a very uneven education system. The Chinese themselves do not believe they have a basic education system equal to the US or other developed nations, in particular South Korea which seems to have the very best based on the data I have seen.

    By the way I never wrote that blacks should be taught by blacks, but I do not think blacks should be taught by an overwhelmingly white teaching force either. That was and is exactly the same issue that Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools (BIA) faced and that is also why they have a preference in employment policy. Even with the perference policy there are white TFAers taking jobs today in BIA schools.

    Now to this question: "Rod, Are you saying that it is more important for African Americans to be taught by people of their own race than it is for them to be taught by the best or most qualified teachers?" I am saying what I wrote which was: "I do not think these schools' faculties should become overwhelmingly white."

    Now I will not ask you this question: do you think schools in Chicago that are minority in composition should be taught by all white middle class born teachers if they are the most qualified? It is not a fair question because there is much more to educating children than an estimation of academic qualifications. Moreover, your post never suggested that and I would be drawing a very big conclusion from what you wrote.

    I think it is true that there are more African Americans passing the Bar and becoming CPAs as one post stated. It seems clear that there are numerous academically talented African Americans, but apparently they did not chose to become teachers and clearly they were not in the pool that took the basic skills test. One reason they were not in that pool is money and another is working conditions for educators in many districts in Illinois.

    In all the responses to what I wrote I do not see anyone suggesting that based on the results of the basic skills test that over a period of years there will likely be a major racial shift in who is teaching in the Chiago Public Schools which only has 11% white students currently. That is why the hearing was held in Illinois House Education Committee, that is why many elected officals not all of whom are black or Hispanic were upset when they found out about these results.

    Rod Estvan

  • I am not so sure that the issue is simply providing a quality education for all children. Many African Americans who moved to some south suburban communities for diversity found themselves eventually in all black communities again. The same thing is happening to Hispanic families who moved to Cicero. The suburbs are far from racially diverse.

    Schools and school systems are part of communities. The issue is not simply providing students an education. If the world was that simple education for urban minorities would not look the way it currently does. Schools are also cultural institutions within a society that teaches cultural values, those values in the United States are currently not racially neutral, they may pretend to be but they are not.

    Rod Estvan

  • Um, so let's keep givng kids poorly educated teachers who do not have the basic skills, and that will fix the problem? Come on, everyone should pass the test with a 75%. High expectations for teachers mean high expectations for kids. Stop the excuses. If you made it through a teacher education program by doing the work yourself, you can pass the tests.

  • So the only two options are teaching or welfare? All other jobs are taken by illegals? Seriously? If you want a teaching job do the work to get it. I have taken the test. It is not very difficult. If you don't know the basic skills -you should not be teaching.

  • until parents and principals are held accountable too. It doesn't matter what tests I pass. I can be the best teacher in the city, and I still will have to face the kids from the "bad teacher" the grade before. These are the kids I have to raise two grad levels instead of one (and I do). Why does the principal tolerate the slackers? It's not the union. These teachers often are never written up for unprofessional behavior which everyone in the building, including the students can recognize the shortcomings. Secondly, what about the parents who don't get the kids to bed, don't feed them, and don't provide them with a safe environment where kids can thrive? Are the teacher accountable for that too. It is way more complex than teacher evaluation. Teachers are held accountable if principals do their job and parents speak up about "bad teachers." In my school people just ignore bad teachers and the rest of us have to work harder to make up. It is a very special CPS code of silence. And I already know- you are going to blame that on the union...

  • Interesting question. To begin, I have a degree in Industrial Psychology and was trained to design tests. Simply, a test of teachers should begin with what is the purpose of the test. If it is a standard for good teachers then it should be validated on what currently good or successful teachers are and the success of their students. I am fairly well educated and yet what I know is predicated on what I have learned within the limits of my intelligence. If a teacher is able to do well in their area of area of teaching and can impart it to their students then we may have a successful teacher no matter what the "basic" tests say.
    I have taught at the college level and I doubt that if I went into another classroom in another academic area I could survive. I know what I know and hope that my students (at that time) got it.

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