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Personality Tests for Teacher Candidates

College graduates who want to be teachers have to pass a variety of tests designed to assess their knowledge of subject matter and pedagogical expertise.  But when half of new teachers quit within the first five years, it's a sign that more is needed.  That's why I propose the addition of a personality test ("Today's Personality Tests Raise the Bar for Job Seekers," The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 15).  

The private sector has used pre-hire assessments for years, with the trend growing dramatically.  In 2001, 26 percent of large companies used them.  By 2013, 57 percent did.  The CIA has long placed great emphasis on such screening because it has found personality tests to have high predictive value.

Critics will say that personality tests have no place in public schools because the best teachers are virtuosos who are in a class of their own.  There is truth to that view.  However, I submit that a well designed personality test can serve as a rough screen that will help all prospective teachers decide if they have realistic expectations.  Too often college graduates learn that they are not suited only after they have devoted much time, effort and money.

The test would present candidates with a series of real-life scenarios and ask them for their reactions.  There would be no right answer.  Instead, candidates would respond on a scale from, say, 1 to 10.  I acknowledge that no such test can provide absolute reliability.  But if it helps candidates look more deeply into themselves about their reasons for choosing to be a teacher, I say it's worthwhile considering.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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