Teacher Shortage Gets Worse: On Purpose

The latest shortage numbers are over 4,000 teachers. Now it seems the State has laid off another 1,000 beginning teachers. Many teachers are employed right out of college and must complete three tests in general knowledge, subject area knowledge and professional education within three years. Until 2014, between 80 and 93% of teachers passed each exam.

ABC News reports that the general knowledge exams were made more difficult in 2015. Pass rates dropped between twenty or thirty percent. For example, pass rates in General Math dropped from 80% in 2014 to 57% in 2018. The exam includes number concepts, geometry and measurement, and algebraic thinking and the coordinate plan. You can see the required elements in each exam here.

These general exams are required of all teachers. In addition, teachers may add specific subject area certification. These subject exams have much more detailed content coverage. The question being raised is whether the increase in complexity of the general exams is warranted. The rationale for the increase in difficulty is that student tests are more complex; thus teachers’ tests should also be. At what point is testing for the sake of testing creating more problems than it solves

Posted in Achievement, Curriculum, Public Education.


  1. I have a master’s degree in a health-care profession, but would not be able to pass the math section of the general knowledge test, either, without a good deal of review of some of the parts. That’s simply because I never, ever need to use those concepts in daily life. An early-elementary grade teacher wouldn’t use them a lot either, nor would a mid- or high-school teacher of English, art, music, history, or PE. While indeed we want teachers to be able to show mastery of a wide range of knowledge, I have mixed feelings about testing already-established teachers on subjects that aren’t relevant to the classes they teach.

    I can imagine a lot of people doing poorly on the English section as well, since I meet fairly few adults who are truly competent with punctuation, spelling, or word usage. I would like teachers to be able to do extremely well in communication in their native language, since that affects every type of class they might teach.

  2. I am not in favor of testing for the sake of testing, but I also know that we want to be seen as professionals. A report that 1000 teachers could not pass a general knowledge exam is not going to help with that perception.

    I retired in 2005. At that time I was the District Media Specialist for Orange County. There had been a requirement that media specialists had to have a degree in the field. However, by the time I retired, all you needed was a Bachelor’s degree and to pass the Educational Media Specialist test. My office was offering classes in school library subjects to those who had passed the test but had no school library background. We hoped to help them understand the rudiments of the job.

    Many people with a Bachelor’s degree were coming into the district library to borrow materials about teaching since they were teaching with no background, but had passed a subject area test. I vividly remember an enthusiastic woman who wanted something to help with her new job teaching kindergarten, her degree was in business. At one time extra classes were required in early childhood to teach kindergarten.

    I confess that I have mixed feelings about the value of many education classes, but I do know that there is knowledge needed for most subject areas. Tests are always a problem for all the many reasons that have been discussed over the years. However, I do wonder if no standards of any kind are needed for teaching. If so, where does that leave us?

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