A Fair Chance: Simple Steps to Strengthen and Diversify the Teacher Workforce

Each year a significant number of aspiring elementary teachers, having successfully completed their formal preparation, are still unable to become licensed professionals. That’s because an alarming number of candidates fail their licensing tests, far surpassing the failure rate for other professions’ entry tests, bar exams, and boards. The fact that more candidates fail than pass on their first attempt, and a quarter are never able to earn a passing score, raises serious concerns—especially regarding the effect this failure has on diversity goals. While many factors going back to candidates’ earliest years of education may explain this phenomenon, higher education institutions are in the best position to alter this untenable outcome.

In a recent report, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) offers recommendations for fixing this issue, geared toward higher education institutions and state policymakers:

Three steps higher education institutions and their teacher prep programs can take:

  • Provide better parameters for selecting from course options that count toward general education requirements for undergraduate students who indicate an interest in teaching.
  • Use the teacher preparation program admissions process for undergraduate, graduate, and alternative route programs as an opportunity to identify weaknesses in content knowledge and then tailor the course of study to fill in gaps.
  • Set undergraduate and graduate program content course requirements to align with what elementary teachers need to know.

Three steps state policymakers can take:

  • Revisit current licensing tests to ensure they capture the content knowledge teachers need to fully prepare students to meet college- and career-readiness standards.  
  • Understand that the response to low pass rates is not to abandon tests or make them easier to pass, but to hold teacher prep programs accountable for preparing candidates in the content aligned to elementary standards.
  • Publish first-time and highest-score licensing test pass rates for all candidates enrolled in a teacher prep program to give prospective teacher candidates the information they deserve to choose a program where they are more likely to be successful.

For more, see https://www.nctq.org/publications/A-Fair-Chance