Alabama Teacher Testing Resumes
After a more than two-decade hiatus, Alabama will begin administering subject matter exams to entry level teachers in May 2006. Teacher licensing tests had been suspended in 1985 as a result of a lawsuit by African American educators demonstrating that the state’s exams designed by National Evaluation Systems were racially biased and improperly validated (see Examiner, Spring 1987). A consent decree settling that case required court approval before any new test could be required.
Revision of the twenty-year old consent decree was driven by the state’s desire to comply with the “highly qualified teacher” provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. NCLB requires teachers of core courses in math, reading, and science to hold college degrees in those subjects or pass content-area tests.
The new agreement allows oversight of the exams by a panel of experts, who will monitor the tests for racial bias and other problems. Alabama plans to use the Praxis II exams manufactured by the Educational Testing Service, the same tests that are the focus of national class action lawsuits for scoring errors.
The National Research Council recently conducted a detailed study of teacher tests, concluding that the exams do not “predict who will become effective teachers” but do contribute to a declining share of African Americans and Latinos in the ranks of new teachers (see Examiner, Summer 2001).
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