Passing rate far ahead of average on state teacher tests B.C. Candidates Score Well On Tests

B.C. Candidates Score Well On Tests

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

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.

When the exams were given again in July, Boston College again scored one of the highest pass rates in the state.

Results released by the state Department of Education indicated 79.1 percent of 110 Boston College candidates passed the teacher certification exams given on April 4, while 78 percent of 41 BC candidates passed the exams given on July 11.

But an administrator at the Boston College School of Education said the reliability of the new state teacher exams remained unclear, and that more information about the tests themselves was needed before the results could be meaningfully 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."

Nearly 60 percent of the state's aspiring teachers who took the first test in April failed, and almost half failed the second in July. 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's pass rate in April 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 April 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.

In the July testing, Boston College's pass rate was surpassed by three schools, again with small delegations of exam-takers. Brandeis University and Wheaton College each had seven candidates and a pass rate of 85.7 percent, while Emmanuel College, with five candidates, had a pass rate of 80 percent.

Of the other education schools with more than 40 candidates taking the July exams, Lesley College, with 51, had a pass rate of 54.9 percent; Salem State College, with 91, had a pass rate of 41.8 percent, and Westfield State College, with 46, had a pass rate of 23.9 percent.

Advance word of high failure rates on the new state teacher certification tests 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.

Cawthorne said more details on the tests themselves were needed if the Boston College School of Education were 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."

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