Are States Lowering the Bar for Teaching by Easing Certification Requirements?

Credits: Philadelphia Inquirer

Everett Anderson’s dream of becoming a teacher faced a significant hurdle when he struggled to pass the math component of the licensure tests required in Mississippi.

Despite excelling in other areas, he faced repeated failures in the math section, preventing him from completing his degree and participating in student teaching.

Anderson eventually abandoned his dream, changing his major to social work and graduating a year later. This scenario is not unique, as education leaders across the U.S. report similar stories of aspiring teachers facing challenges with basic skills tests, such as the Praxis Core.

In recent years, states have recognized the need to address this issue. Louisiana, for example, established a task force to investigate declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, revealing that approximately 1,000 aspiring educators failed to enter programs each year due to challenges with the Praxis Core.

Teachers’ Trainings (Credits: Virginia Mercury)

The decline in interest in the teaching profession, coupled with concerns about test inequities and a demographic gap between students and teachers, has prompted several states to reconsider their approach to basic skills tests.

Between 2015 and 2021, the number of states requiring teacher candidates to pass basic skills tests for admission into preparation programs decreased from 25 to 15.

As of the latest count by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), 11 states currently maintain this requirement, with some allowing alternative measures like ACT, SAT, or GRE scores.

Advocates for the shift argue that eliminating these tests allows greater access for students of color, first-generation students, and those from low-income families.

They contend that these tests were duplicative and served as barriers without a clear purpose. Critics, however, express concerns that lowering or eliminating standards for teacher preparation may negatively impact the quality of education.

Heather Peske, President of the NCTQ, warns that dropping standards without introducing meaningful measures of academic aptitude could have long-term consequences.

While some applaud the move as a way to diversify the teaching profession, others remain skeptical about the potential impact on the profession and, more importantly, on students.

The debate over basic skills tests in teacher preparation programs continues as states grapple with finding the right balance between access and maintaining high standards in education.