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Back to December Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 215 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS DECEMBER 2003

Are Public School Teachers Qualified? 
Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom
Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom
Just how bad is the current pool of public school teachers? In their new book, Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom argue that improving teacher quality is essential to turning around the racial achievement gap in American schools. It should be no surprise that many pupils perform poorly on tests, because teachers are failing teacher tests in alarming numbers.

A growing number of states mandate basic-skills examinations in teachers' course curricula. Here are some of the shocking results uncovered by Kelly Patricia O'Meara and reported at insightmag.com, 9-30-03:

  • In Illinois, 5,243 teachers failed at least one test between 1988 and 2001, while 1,308 failed three or more. On basic-skills tests alone, 2,132 failed at least one, 414 failed three or more, and 868 failed to pass any such test. 
  • In Virginia, one-third of would-be teachers in 1998 flunked the Praxis I test of general knowledge, professional skills and subject knowledge to teach in a public-school classroom. 
  • In recent years, more than 50,000 teachers who lack proper training for their jobs have entered teaching annually on emergency or substandard certification. 
  • When Pennsylvania evaluated its teacher testing, it discovered that teachers could qualify for positions in hard-to-fill subject areas just by signing their names. 
  • In Hawaii, one-half of new hires failed either to complete or pass certification exams. 
  • In Long Island, N.Y., a superintendent who decided to give teaching applicants an English test normally given to 11th-graders discovered that only one in four could pass.

    Dr. Abigail Thernstrom is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York. Dr. Stephan Thernstrom is the Winthrop Professor of History at Harvard University.


 
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