Michigan has raised standards for new teachers. Their teacher certification examination is more difficult. English, math and writing skills are set at the level expected for college bound high school students. Yet, the results of the first administration of the test are troubling.
Less than a third of the prospective teachers passed. More made it through by an alternative route either with an equivalent ACT score or by passing two of the three subject areas and coming close on the third.
The passing standards represent the 61st percentile on ACT math and reading (ACT score 22) and the 75th percentile for English and Writing (ACT Score 24) for high school students. Only students at two colleges had passing rates over fifty percent. Seventy one percent of the University of Michigan prospective teachers passed but at many smaller colleges pass rates were lower than twenty percent. This is predictable because the majority of entering students at the University of Michigan already had higher scores. Most other colleges admit students with much lower ACT scores.
The State of Michigan is trying to build the quality of their teachers. They should be able to attract very capable teachers given that there are more prospective teachers than teaching positions. The challenge will be to retain them, especially in struggling schools. The pressures teachers face in schools with a test driven curriculum and limited resources can discourage even the most dedicated.
There is another reality to face. How will Michigan cope with the impact of a test based selection process that may result in a pool of teachers who tend not to look much like the students in their classes? Test scores alone do not guarantee that college graduates will be successful teachers. Knowledge of subject matter, however, is one of the essential components. Knowledge of the students is another.