Location:
TEACHERS - CERTIFICATION AND EVALUATION;
Scope:
Program Description;

OLR Research Report


October 8, 2010

 

2010-R-0420

TEACHER COMPETENCY TESTS IN SELECTED STATES: ALTERNATIVES, EXEMPTIONS AND SCORING FLEXIBILITY

By: Judith Lohman, Assistant Director

You asked us to survey several states to determine (1) which require candidates for state teaching certificates to pass one or more tests as a condition of certification or licensure; (2) whether they provide for alternatives to, or exemptions or waivers from the tests; and (3) if they consider a candidate's grades or job experience in determining whether he or she passes the test or qualifies for a test exemption.

We surveyed teacher competency tests required in Connecticut and the following 10 northeastern states: Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The information in this report relates only to tests required for initial licensure or certification of elementary and secondary school teachers. It does not cover testing requirements for school administrators or for specialized personnel, such as special education, vocational, or bilingual education teachers.

SUMMARY

All 11 states require those seeking teacher certification for the first time to pass one or more competency tests. Nine of the 11, including Connecticut, allow exemptions or waivers from at least one of the tests under certain conditions. The states commonly allow exemptions for teachers who have valid teaching certificates from another state along with significant teaching experience. Most of the states also waive the basic skills test if the applicant scores at a certain level on other standardized tests, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the ACT (originally known as the American College Test), or the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have no exemption provisions.

Some of the states allow flexibility in calculating passing scores. Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania adjust passing scores based on a candidate's cumulative grade point average (GPA). In those states, applicants with lower GPAs have to achieve a higher passing score to qualify for certificates and vice versa.

Five states allow applicants to pass the basic skills test using their composite score on three subtests, rather than by meeting the specified passing score on each subtest. This allows an applicant to pass the test even if performance on one part is below the qualifying level. The states that allow an applicant to use composite scores are Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Table 1 below shows the tests required in each of the 11 states, the test's main focus, allowable waivers and exemptions, and any flexibility the state uses in determining a passing score.

REQUIRED TESTS

All 11 states require candidates for initial teaching certificates to pass one or more competency tests. Every state, except Rhode Island, requires prospective teachers to pass a basic skills test to demonstrate competency in reading, writing, and math. All 11 states, including Rhode Island, require applicants to pass a test in the subject they are seeking to teach.

Connecticut and New York require many teachers to pass a separate test of pedagogical skills. Connecticut requires applicants for elementary and early childhood/special education certificates to pass a test in how to teach reading and New York requires both elementary and secondary education applicants to demonstrate professional and pedagogical knowledge on a separate test.

Nine of the states use the Educational Testing Service's Praxis test series as their basic skills (Praxis I) and subject matter (Praxis II) tests, although each state sets its own passing score for the tests. Massachusetts and New York use state-specific tests. (Connecticut's reading test is also a state-specific test.)

EXEMPTIONS AND WAIVERS

Equivalent Tests

Five of the states that use the Praxis I and II tests waive one or both tests for applicants who achieve state-established qualifying scores on equivalent tests. The most common Praxis equivalents are the SAT, ACT, and GRE tests, all of which, like the Praxis tests, are designed, administered, and scored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Certificates from Other States

Eight of the 11 states surveyed grant testing exemptions for teachers certified in other states, if they meet certain conditions (see Table 1). Teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards are also exempt. The only northeastern states that allow no test waivers to any out-of-state teachers are Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Other Exemptions

New Jersey allows applicants to substitute basic military training or college level study in related areas for its requirement that prospective teachers pass a test in physiology and hygiene.

New York exempts those who already hold a New York teaching certificate from the state's basic skills test when such a teacher seeks an additional certificate to teach in a new subject area.

PASSING SCORES

All states require applicants for teaching certificates to achieve certain state-established minimum scores on the required competency tests. The states that use Praxis I as their basic skills test also establish state passing scores for each part of that test (reading, writing, and math).

Of the 11 states surveyed, five allow applicants to pass the Praxis I by either achieving the passing score on each part or achieving a composite score (scores on all three parts added together) that meets a state established minimum. The states are Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Vermont. All of these states require the composite score to equal the sum of the required minimum scores on each part.

Delaware's composite score rule allows a candidate to use a composite score only if his or her score on a test section is no more than two points below the passing score for that section. In addition, Delaware requires anyone seeking certification in math or English to achieve the passing score on the math or writing part of the Praxis I test, respectively. Maine allows an applicant to use a composite score only if he or she falls no more than three points short of the required score on any single part.

Table 1: Teacher Competency Tests in 11 States: Alternatives, Exemptions, and Scoring Flexibility

Test

Test Focus

Exemptions and Waivers

Scoring Flexibility

CONNECTICUT

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

● Achieve state-set minimum scores on SAT, ACT, GRE, or Prueba de Aptitud Academica (PAA) test or

● Hold a certificate from another state equivalent to a Connecticut initial certificate and have either: (a) three years of experience in the last 10 in the other state or (b) a master's degree in the subject area for which CT certification is requested.

None

Praxis II or American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) test

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

Hold a certificate from another state equivalent to a Connecticut initial certificate and have either: (a) three years of experience in the last 10 in the other state or (b) a master's degree in the subject area for which CT certification is requested.

CT Foundations of Reading Test1

Proficiency in (a) foundations of reading development, (b) development of reading comprehension, and (c) reading assessment and instruction

DELAWARE

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

● Achieve state-set minimum scores on the SAT, GRE, NTE (National Teacher Exam) Communications Test (exempts candidate from the writing subtest only), or California Basic Skills Test (CBEST) or

● Hold full and current certification from another state

Candidates who do not meet the passing score on a section of the test, but whose score is within two points of passing can use a composite score. A composite score is a combined score on all three parts of the Praxis I test that equals or exceeds the sum of the passing scores on the three parts. Those seeking a certificate in math or English must achieve a passing score on the math or writing part of the test, as appropriate (14 Delaware Code 1210).

Praxis II

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

Hold full and current certification from another state

None

-Continued-

Test

Test Focus

Exemptions and Waivers

Scoring Flexibility

MAINE

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

Hold a current teaching certificate from another state in the same endorsement area

Maine sets a passing score for each of the three test parts of the basic skills test. In order to pass the test, a candidate must have (1) a total score at least equal to the sum of the passing scores on each part and (2) fall no more than three points below passing on any single part (Maine Department of Education Regulations, 3.3)

Praxis II

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

Hold a current teaching certificate from another state in the same endorsement area

None

MARYLAND

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

● Achieve state-set minimum scores on SAT, ACT, or GRE

● Some out-of-state candidates may be eligible for a test exemption.

Candidates may pass Praxis I by achieving either passing scores on each part of the test or a passing composite score. The composite score is the combined total of state passing scores on the three Praxis I subtests.

Praxis II or ACTFL

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

Some out-of-state candidates may be eligible for a test exemption.

A composite score (the sum of Praxis II content assessments) is acceptable for certification in both art and music.

MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts Test for Education Licensure (MTEL)

Content and literacy skills test (includes subtests for reading and writing) and subject test (varies according to certification subject)

None

None

-Continued-

Test

Test Focus

Exemptions and Waivers

Scoring Flexibility

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Praxis I or equivalent tests as determined by the state credentialing bureau

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

● Master's degree or higher or

● Seven or more years of educational experience under a credential issued by another state

Candidates may pass Praxis I by achieving either passing scores on each part of the test or a passing composite score. The composite score is the combined total of state passing scores on the three Praxis I subtests.

Praxis II or equivalent tests as determined by the state credentialing bureau

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

● Master's degree or higher in the subject or

● Seven or more years of educational experience in the subject under a credential issued by another state

None

NEW JERSEY

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

Teachers certified by other states may be exempt, depending on experience and qualifications in the other state, including achieving at least the New Jersey Praxis I passing scores.

None

Praxis II

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

None

Passing scores are adjusted as follows based on grade point average (GPA):

If GPA is less than 2.75 but at least 2.5, the set passing score is increased by 10%.

If GPA is 3.5 or higher, the set passing score is reduced by 5%.

-Continued-

Test

Test Focus

Exemptions and Waivers

Scoring Flexibility

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Exam administered at the county offices of education.

Physiology and hygiene

In lieu of this examination, an applicant may present basic military training or college level study in areas such as biology, health or nutrition.

None

NEW YORK

Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST)

Scientific, mathematical, and technological processes; historical and social scientific awareness; artistic expression and the humanities; communication and research skills; and written analysis and expression.

Not required for those already holding NY teaching certificates seeking additional certificate.

None

Assessment of Teaching Skills (ATS), elementary or secondary version

Professional and pedagogical knowledge at the early childhood (birth–grade 2) and childhood (grades 1–6) levels or at the middle childhood (grades 5–9) and adolescence (grades 7–12) levels, as appropriate.

None

Content Specialty Test (CST) in certification area

Knowledge and skills in the content area of the candidate's field of certification

Continued-

Test

Test Focus

Exemptions and Waivers

Scoring Flexibility

PENNSYLVANIA

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

None

Starting January 1, 2010, passing scores vary based on GPA as follows:

● 2.8-2.99 GPA: qualifying score +1 standard deviation

● 3.0 GPA: qualifying score

● 3.1-3.25 GPA: qualifying score −0.25 standard deviation

● 3.26-3.5 GPA: qualifying score −0.5 standard deviation

● 3.51-3.75 GPA: qualifying score −0.75 standard deviation

● 3.76-4.0 GPA: qualifying score −1 standard deviation

Praxis II

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

RHODE ISLAND

Praxis II2

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

Teachers with valid certificates from states with which RI has “enhanced reciprocity” are exempt from the test as long as they meet other RI certification criteria.

None

VERMONT

Praxis I

Basic competence in reading, writing, and math

● Meet state-set qualifying scores on the SAT, ACT or GRE test or

● Qualify for a Level II license and have at least three years' experience in the last seven years in the endorsement area being sought.

Candidates must meet the Vermont passing score on each part of the Praxis I test or have a composite score at least equal to the sum of the three Vermont passing scores.

Praxis II

Competence in subject for which certification is sought

None

1 The Connecticut Foundations of Reading Test is required for all applicants for initial certification in elementary education or integrated early childhood/special education.

2 Rhode Island does not require prospective teachers to pass a basic skills test (Praxis I).

HYPERLINKS

Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Educator Standards and Certification, Guide to Assessments for Educator certification in Connecticut, September 2010, http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/Cert/guides/assess_for_cert.pdf

Delaware Department of Education, https://deeds.doe.k12.de.us/default.aspx; Educational Testing Service, The Praxis Series, Overview of Delaware Testing Requirements, http://www.ets.org/praxis/de

Maine Department of Education, http://www.maine.gov/education/cert/index.html; Educational Testing Service, The Praxis Series, Maine Test Requirements, http://www.ets.org/praxis/me/requirements

Maryland State Department of Education, Certification Branch, http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/MSDE/divisions/certification/certification_branch/?WBCMODE=PresentationUnpublished%25%3e%25%253%25%25%3e%25%3e%25%3e

Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL), http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/

New Hampshire Department of Education, Certification/Bureau of Credentialing, Required Tests for Certification, http://www.education.nh.gov/certification/req_tests.htm

New Jersey Department of Education, Licensure & Credentials, Instructional Certification, http://www.nj.gov/education/educators/license/instructcert.htm

New York, New York State Teacher Examinations, http://www.nystce.nesinc.com/

Pennsylvania Department of Education, Testing Requirements for Certification in Pennsylvania, http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/testing_requirements/8638

Educational Testing Service, The Praxis Series, Rhode Island Testing Requirements, http://www.ets.org/praxis/ri/requirements/

Vermont Department of Education, Educator Licensing, Educator Testing Requirements (updated 6/29/10), http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/licensing/testing.html

JL:ts