Education Policy and Advocacy
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Licensure Tests: A Powerful Platform for Building a Diverse and Durable Teacher Workforce

Last month, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a pivotal report – Driven by Data: Using Licensure Tests to Build a Strong, Diverse Teacher Workforce –  containing never-before-published data on teacher licensure tests. This first release includes data from elementary licensure tests covering four core content areas (English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies) across institutions in 38 states and D.C.

The data presented is grim but, unfortunately, not entirely surprising. Overall, the average first-attempt pass rate for states with strong testing systems is a mere 45%. The new report highlights just how far we have to go in strengthening teacher preparation programs to ensure all teacher candidates are getting a high-quality educational experience – where they are prepared to be successful leaders upon entering the classroom. This is particularly critical for educators of color, who face systemic barriers to success. We cannot have a teacher workforce that looks more like the students in our schools if preparation programs continue to under-prepare teachers of color for licensure exams (let alone the rigors of the classroom). 

It’s not all bad news, though! NCTQ’s report offers notes of positivity and spotlights standout states offering promising practices and policies. 

  • Massachusetts has leveraged strong data systems to ask hard questions about what’s working in the state and to pinpoint opportunities to strengthen its teacher pipeline.
  • Florida’s push for transparency has helped it raise the bar for teacher quality.
  • Illinois has a sophisticated report card system to promote preparation program improvement.
  • Texas has developed an exemplary set of data dashboards, supporting its efforts to build a strong diverse teacher workforce. 

The data from this report proves that the nation needs a strong, diverse teacher workforce. And the only way to do that is to continue to pave the way for teachers to have access to high-quality preparation programs that will prepare them for success in the classroom. 

For more information on individual state-level data, check out the Teacher Licensure Pass Rate State Dashboard to download state datasets and reports.

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