Data: future teachers of color have a higher “drop-out rate”

About a quarter of Tennessee elementary school applicants who fail their licensure test on their first attempt do not try again, with an even higher “dropout rate” for prospective teachers of color, according to national data released Wednesday.

For Tennessians of color who failed their first exam, about a third did not retest licensure, according to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality, or NCTQ.

First-time pass rates also varied significantly among the state’s nearly 40 teacher education programs – from 7% at LeMoyne-Owen College to 100% at Vanderbilt University.

The data, which NCTQ officials say is being released for the first time, offers important information for Tennessee in its drive to replenish, strengthen and diversify its enrollment of more than 61,000 public school teachers – and d ” have an effective teacher in each class.

The analysis focuses on candidates for elementary school education between 2015 and 2018, when Tennessee asked its candidates to take two Praxis exams to obtain licensure. A test generates an overall score on content knowledge, which is defined as the minimum knowledge required to teach a subject.

In 2019, the state switched to a single exam by edTPA that generates individual scores on content knowledge in mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts of the English language. Applicants can retake the subsections they fail, but all must pass to be licensed.

“We’re thrilled that Tennessee has moved on to a more rigorous licensure assessment that requires passing every content area, but I think this data is still relevant,” said Hannah Putman, chief research officer for the council, which oversaw the national report. “It is likely that institutions that struggled in the previous two tests will continue to fight for the new test, so the trends are worth looking at.”

The report shows that an average of 93% of Tennessee applicants passed the state’s previous pedagogy test on the first try, while only 67% passed their initial content knowledge test.

More importantly, the data provides insight into the level of encouragement and support each institution has for teacher candidates who retake a failed test, as well as the level of persistence on the part of candidates.

“I can see why students can walk away when they fail Praxis [test]especially those who belong to minorities, ”said Nicholas Clifton, a black student taking his license exam to teach at Tennessee Elementary School.

Nicholas Clifton is a student-athlete at Maryville College and is studying to become an elementary school teacher.
Courtesy of Maryville College

Growing up in rural Georgia, Clifton was an honorary student and basketball star, but struggled academically once he reached Maryville College, near Knoxville, where he was entering his final year. year as a student-athlete.

“I didn’t have the proper preparation to write an essay or cite references from a website. I was never taught that, ”Clifton said. “Then when I discovered Praxis, I said, ‘What is this? “”

Clifton had to pass several Praxis screening tests to continue his elementary education at Maryville College and failed several times before passing. He will need to take more exams to get a license, but feels better prepared thanks to his experience with Praxis testing and the support he has received from his teachers.

“When you have to pay to take these tests and see how much teachers are paid, you wonder if it’s worth it,” he said. “But I know we need male educators of color. When I was young, I didn’t have one.

Experiences like Clifton’s are common and need to be considered and addressed by teacher education programs, said Diarese George, a former teacher who is executive director of the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance.

“If you’re a product of K-12 inequity, you’re still catching up,” said George. “For people who want to be a teacher, there are usually things on your licensing exam that you probably never learned along the way. “

The new information in the NCTQ report, which covers 38 states and the District of Columbia, has been eagerly awaited by Tennessee policymakers, who have worked closely with the state’s teacher education programs since qu A 2016 report indicated that most did not adequately prepare teachers for the classroom.

The State Board of Education publishes an annual report evaluating training programs on criteria such as completion rates, racial diversity, placement and retention in Tennessee public schools, and whether they are producing teachers for them. high need areas such as special education and secondary math and science.

Earlier this year, the board approved a new policy requiring Tennessee school districts to set goals and strategies to bring more teachers of color in front of students.

Board spokesperson Elizabeth Tullos said staff were eager to dig into the new NCTQ data, which she said “will be invaluable as we set political goals for next year.” .

George, who taught for five years in Clarksville before forming the Educators of Color Alliance, is happy to see any data or policies that help teacher education programs tackle inequalities in education.

“To eliminate the gaps, we need to understand what created the gaps in the first place, and then include them in the [teacher] preparation experience, ”he said.

“If a student has the heart and the will to become a teacher and loves children, there are ways to support them and help them get there, even if they were late when they arrived at college.”

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