As of this fall, prospective Missouri teachers are paying $22 to take a test that will tell them…something. Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has revamped the teacher certification process. DESE has replaced the licensure exams we have used for many years with new exams that Pearson Education, Inc. designed. Among these new exams is the Missouri Educator Profile. The strange thing about this test is that it has “no right or wrong answers.”
It is somewhat strange to require a test (you actually have to take it twice) that has no right or wrong answers. How could this possibly be useful? Well, the test is supposed to help prospective teachers develop their “work habits.”
The fact of the matter is that this test does have right and wrong answers. According to a DESE official with whom I corresponded:
When building this assessment we had a number of exceptional teachers from the various areas (SPED, Elementary, Secondary, Principals, Counselors, and Librarians) take the assessment. They became our norming group. The student [pre-service teacher] responses will be compared to the norming groups.
Students’ answers will be “right” if they reflect the work habits of these exceptional teachers. They will be wrong if they don’t.
In designing this test, DESE and Pearson violated one of the basic tenants of good social science research — don’t select on the dependent variable. Let me explain. They selected “exceptional teachers” and then tried to see what traits those teachers had. Without a comparison group of unsuccessful teachers, we don’t really know if the traits are unique to the “successful teachers” or if they caused them to be successful. Essentially, DESE’s norming group for this test is meaningless.
Like I said, beginning this fall, prospective teachers will take a test that will tell them…something.