BC Candidates Among Best at Passing Massachusetts Teacher Test

(7-23-98) -- Nearly four out of every five Boston College candidates scored a passing grade on the Massachusetts teacher tests given in April. The BC success rate on the exams was one of the highest of any college or university in the state.

Results released by the state Department of Education on July 23 indicated 79.1 percent of 110 Boston College candidates passed the teacher certification exams given on April 4.

Boston College's pass rate was surpassed by only three schools, each of which had a relatively small number of candidates taking the tests. The Harvard Graduate School of Education, with seven candidates, and Wellesley College, with five, each had a perfect pass rate of 100 percent. Tufts University, with 16 candidates, had a pass rate of 81.3 percent.

The BC success rate on the teacher tests compared well to those of other schools with comparably sized education programs. By comparison, Boston University, with 67 candidates, had a pass rate of 65.7 percent; the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with 129 candidates, a pass rate of 55 percent, and Bridgewater State College, with 146 candidates, a pass rate of 32.9 percent.

But an administrator at the Boston College School of Education said the reliability of the new state teacher exams remains unclear, and that more information about the tests themselves is needed before the results can be meaninfully interpreted.

"We're pleased that we compare favorably to other schools, but we're disappointed that 100 percent of our students didn't pass," said SOE Assistant Dean for Students and Outreach John Cawthorne. "We are willing to re-examine our program, once we have information about the accuracy and reliability of the test. We can't examine our program unless we have that information."

Advance word of high failure rates on the new state teacher certification tests had prompted widespread calls this summer for improvements in the teacher-training programs at colleges and universities.

Deans and faculty at education schools have countered with questions over the validity of the new teacher tests, which were launched without a trial run this past spring.

The state Department of Education has said it will release detailed information in mid-August on the way teacher tests in April and July were administered.

Cawthorne said those details are necessary if the Boston College School of Education is to assess its strengths and failings in preparing student teachers for certification.

"We have high standards, and we would hope for a pass rate of 100 percent," he said. "However, we don't know whether or not we lived up to our high standards. We don't know if we have anything to fix.

"We looked good compared to others. But looking good on a flawed test does not mean we are good. Looking good on an accurate test would mean we were better, but that might not be good enough for us."

To receive certification, teacher candidates had to pass a literacy test in reading and writing, and then a test in a specific subject, such as elementary education or biology.

Boston College candidates fared relatively well on all components of the April 4 exams, according to the summary test results released by the state.

In the test of communications and literacy skills, given in the morning, 91.9 percent of 111 BC candidates passed the reading section, and 90.2 percent of 112 candidates passed the writing section. The combined pass rate of 111 BC candidates on the reading and writing sub-tests was 85.6 percent. In the afternoon testing on specific subjects, 113 BC candidates had a combined pass rate of 85.8 percent.

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