THEA, TExES, & Pass Rates

A recommendation from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) from its Standard 1: Selectivity, reads as follows: “The standards for admission either into the institution or its teacher preparation program should select teacher candidates from only the top half of the college population.” Part of their measurement for schools that are not “highly selective” in terms of their general SAT/ACT admissions requirements is that a Texas teacher education program should require THEA scores above the minimum in reading and mathematics.

You should be aware that the measurements, methodologies, and rationales of NCTQ have met with strong opposition from Colleges of Education in our state. Dozens of school leaders, including Dean Lucian Yates, put their names on a letter to U.S. News and World Report objecting to its proposed publication of NCTQ ratings this year.

But what about the question of the minimum THEA scores needed for admission to teacher education? Since the TExES is largely a reading comprehension exam (if you can’t read and understand the questions, your chances of selecting the correct answer are slim) and teachers in all subject areas need to help students with reading, shouldn’t future teachers be above the level that’s considered only just ready for college work? A THEA Reading score of 230 is what a new college freshman should achieve.

And does the THEA reading score requirement have any impact on how many students pass the TExES exam at the end of their college career? Take a look at the following table:

University Required THEA Reading Score % examinees passing TExES, FY2009 % African-American examinees who passed
Texas Women’s U 260 98% 95%
Southern Methodist 260 not available not available
UH-Clear Lake 260 99% 99%
West Texas A&M 260 97% 80%
TAMU-Corpus Christi 250 94% 81%
TAMU-Commerce 250 98% 95%
Stephen F. Austin 245 98% 93%
TAMU-Texarkana 240 93% 82%
UT-San Antonio 230 95% 94%
UH-Downtown 230 94% 94%
Prairie View A&M 230 81% 78%

Additionally, at the University of Houston, the FY 2009 TExES pass rate was 99% overall and 100% for the 38 African-American examinees.

Pass rate information was taken from the Higher Education Accountability System

PVAMU doesn’t have the highest numbers, either for its minimum THEA reading score or its pass rates, both overall and for African-American students. Schools that require a 260 (Prairie View’s old requirement) have pass rates in the high 90s, but even UHD, which requires no SAT or ACT scores from its applicants, is getting 94% of its students through the TExES with just a 230 THEA reading score.

So…what’s going on?

Until recently, Prairie View hasn’t required students to pass practice exams as part of their coursework, a practice common in many other Texas programs. You’re now studying like crazy to be able to progress to your 4000-level CUINs–and doing your TExES preparation a lot earlier. You’re getting familiar with the domains and competencies and test frameworks.

And it may not be a matter of “doing wrong” by students. Notice the pass rates for West Texas A&M and TAMU-Corpus Christi. Yes, they’re great overall, but for African-American examinees, the numbers are about where Prairie View’s are. As with most standardized tests, minority students tend to post lower scores. A 2002 study found that HBCUs had lower teacher certification pass rates than other schools, perhaps because of “the cultural bias in standardized tests” (Albers).

If you’re interested, check out the March 2011 report from ETS, “Performance and Passing Rate Differences of African American and White Prospective Teachers on Praxis Examinations,” which found that the reading, writing, and mathematics sections of their particular teacher certification exam, Praxis, were passed by 78-80% of white first-time test takers but only 37-44% of African-American first-time test takers. Interestingly enough, the study also found that education majors had the lowest average scores on all the Praxis tests. Basically, the researchers concluded that being an African-American education major led to lower certification exam scores, but that could be offset by attending a hard-to-get-into college and earning a high GPA. Check out page 28 of the report for data on students taking the elementary education content exams.

What’s a solution? Raising the minimum THEA Reading scores? Doing more TExES preparation? Doing different TExES preparation?

References

Albers, P. (2002, January). Praxis II and African American teacher candidates (or, “is everything black bad”?). English Education, 34(2), 105-25.

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