Mass. Teacher Test Blasted Again

Teacher & Employment Testing

A second independent academic study has strongly criticized the controversial Massachusetts Teacher Tests (recently relabeled the Massachusetts Educator Certification Tests or MECT, since they are also required for school administrators).


Like the first external analysis (see Examiner, Winter 1998-99), "Teacher Education & Testing in Massachusetts" by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts (AICUM) concludes that "No evidence has been provided to the public . . . that the MECTs are valid . . . or that these tests are reliable."


Authors Susan Melnick, Ph.D., who teaches at Michigan State University, and Diana Pullin, Ph.D., J.D., the former Dean of Boston College's School of Education, raise a number of additional issues, including the potential disparate impact of the testing program on minorities. According to their review of state data, not a single non-white candidate passed all sections of the exam on its first administration. Subsequently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts stopped releasing data on racial group passage rates.


The report notes potential conflicts between the high MECT failure rate and the growing demand for new teachers. It concludes by laying out a variety of possible responses by teacher training institutions, ranging from "do nothing" to "engage in litigation against the Commonwealth and/or support students who choose the legal route to contesting the denial of their teacher certification on the basis of failing the tests after they had met all the other requirements for the credential."


Despite the severe academic criticism of the Massachusetts tests, a booklet by a "high standards" advocacy group actually praises them for "making efforts to install higher level skills." In fact, authors of Not Good Enough: A Content Analysis of Teacher Licensing Examinations at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C. never examined a complete version of the MECT -- their judgment is based on a handful of selected items provided by the test's manufacturer. In their zeal to promote the unsubstantiated notion that "tough" teacher tests improve classroom educational quality, they apparently ignored the evidence of the independent academics who carefully analyzed the Massachusetts data. This sort of knee-jerk, pro-testing propaganda neither improves the quality of the public debate nor enhances student learning.