« Censorship of Classics Still Exists | Main | Forcing Teachers to Reapply for Their Jobs »

What About a Bar Exam for Aspiring Teachers?

The need for highly qualified teachers has led some reformers to demand what amounts to a bar exam.  At first glance, the proposal has merit, but I doubt it will do much - if anything - to solve the problem.  I base my view on the situation in California, where the state's Supreme Court ruled in favor of keeping the bar's cut score of 144 intact ("California Bar Exam to Remain One of Nation's Most Difficult, Court Rules" (The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 20).

Let's assume for a second that a score on a standardized written test has predictive value.  Then the problem will be what the passing score should be.  If the past is any indication, black and Hispanic test takers will disproportionately fail to make the grade.  That will then lead to a disparate impact lawsuit.  The majority of California's 21 nationally accredited law schools argued precisely that in decrying the high court's decision.

Why would a standardized test for teacher licensing be any different?  In fact, I predict it would be far worse. That's because teacher colleges already admit virtually everyone who applies. The lack of selectivity will unavoidably result in a low passage rate.  For example, unlike most states, California allows graduates of unaccredited schools and those accredited only by the state to take the bar exam.  That is likely a factor in the low pass rate compared with other states.

The larger issue is whether there is a better way. I favor performance  assessment.  I liken it to auditioning for a part in a show.  Those who possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited school would be asked to teach a lesson in front of a group of students.  They would be rated by a panel of trained evaluators licensed in the subject being taught.  I emphasize the latter because subject matter knowledge is as important as pedagogical expertise.  I realize that performance assessment is not perfect, but what evaluation strategy is?

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments