BOSTON -- At least a third of the 1,800 candidates who took Massachusetts' first teacher certification test are not qualified because they can't read or write well enough, state Commissioner of Education Frank Haydu III said yesterday.
The number of candidates who failed the test may increase Monday, when the state Board of Education votes on what constitutes a passing score. While at least a third failed the literacy portion, as many as 59 percent failed overall, based on a standard recommended by a panel of 300 educators.
Haydu has recommended a standard under which 44 percent will have failed the test overall.
The two-part, eight-hour test was given as part of Education Reform efforts to raise standards for both teachers and students. Those taking the test included seniors or recent graduates.
In the literacy portion, which "a strong student in 10th grade should be able to pass," said Haydu, the college graduates did so dismally on spelling, grammar and writing, they showed an "inability" to construct proper sentences. Candidates did better on the section that tested knowledge of their subject area.
The large number of failures is not expected to affect the hiring of an estimated 3,000 teachers by schools across the state next year, because there are enough certified teachers to fill the need.
But a continued high failure rate by college graduates could have profound ramifications over the next decade, as the state retires almost 40 percent of its teaching force. Public schools rarely hire teachers who are not certified.
"This is a wake-up call to all of us," said William Dandridge, dean of the Lesley College School of Education.
But state Board of Education Chairman John Silber said, "Let's blame the colleges," who "pass students who haven't demonstrated competency in subject matter." Silber wants the board to approve a higher passing score than what Haydu has recommended.
Students can retake the test this summer, or as many times as they like until they pass it, Haydu stressed yesterday. Before this year, Massachusetts was one of only seven states that did not test teachers for certification.
The tests were criticized in April after college students found out only a week before the test that the scores would count toward certification.
Haydu said that because the test is new and more challenging than other states' teacher tests, he is recommending a lower passing score than the educator panel has recommended.
Haydu said that despite the disappointing results, the test could serve as proof that the teaching of writing and grammar must improve at all grade levels.
Pub Date: 6/20/98