Originally created 11/16/00

Most fail two tests to teach



ATLANTA - More than half of the candidates at four teacher-preparation programs at state colleges and universities failed a mandatory test for certification, according to scores released Tuesday.

Paine College, along with Albany State, Clark Atlanta and Fort Valley State universities, had less than 50 percent of their test-takers pass the Praxis II, which measures candidates' knowledge in their teaching field.

Clark Atlanta University and Paine are private institutions.

"This test is a content test, and it does measure whether a teacher would know the content they are supposed to teach, but it doesn't measure whether the teacher could actually teach," said F.D. Toth, executive secretary of the Professional Standards Commission. The commission uses the Praxis scores to determine whether to license Georgia teachers.

Test scores were also by teaching field.

At Paine, 30 percent of the 50 students who took the test passed.

Shirley A.R. Lewis, president of Paine, said parents can rest assured that any student with a degree from Paine has passed Praxis I and II.

"You cannot graduate from Paine College in teacher education unless you have passed Praxis I and II," Dr. Lewis said. "You can take the test, because anyone can take the test, but we don't even let our student go into student teaching until they have passed Praxis I and II. So if you see a Paine College student student-teaching or teaching, you can rest assured that they have passed Praxis I and II."

Dr. Lewis said students who have taken the required courses and followed the college's criteria for an education degree pass the Praxis tests. Of the 11 students who followed the school's criteria, she said, all of them passed.

At Augusta State University, 78 percent of the 177 students who took the test passed.

Robert Freeman, dean of Augusta State's Education Department, said that although the 78 percent puts Augusta State in the upper-middle echelon of the state, the school is not satisfied.

"If one of our students doesn't pass the test, we're troubled by that," Dr. Freeman said.

Statewide, teachers preparing to lead middle grades faltered on the Praxis test designed for middle grade certification. Only 66 percent of the 897 candidates passed the exam, which measures competency in math, English, social studies and science.

"I'm surprised that they are that high," said Jan Kettlewell, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs with the University System of Georgia. "We issue a broad certificate that allows teachers to teach all four of those subjects, when they are only prepared in two of them."

Middle schoolers have been at the center of much of the debate this year over education reforms. Tests of basic knowledge in core subjects show Georgia's middle school pupils lagging behind the nation and struggling to perform even basic math problems. The governor and educators have been meeting to discuss how to improve middle school education.

Reach Faith Johnson at (706) 823-3765 or Shannon Womble at (404) 589-8424.