Future Missouri teachers struggle to pass certification test

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JEFFERSON CITY - Some future Missouri teachers are not making the grade when it comes to their certification test. On Tuesday, the Missouri Board of Education will propose changes after test-takers struggled on new certification exams, particularly those for aspiring math and science teachers. The proposed changes, include giving test-takers more time and fewer questions to answer on some of the exams.

The Missouri Content Assessment Test is made up of 55 different content test that measure the readiness for teachers depending on the subject and grade level that they wish to teach.

A report released by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education states on six of the content test, fewer than half of the test-takers passed.

Issues arose after the state switched certification exams in September. Instead of taking a test known as Praxis II, students now must take on a more rigorous assessment called the Missouri Content Assessment. Through April 12, more than 7,100 of the tests were taken.

Paul Katnik, an assistant commissioner for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said math and science where the subjects with the lowest passing rate.
"It's just content areas that we all struggle with by enlarge," Katnik said. "It's a struggle for K-12 students and then when they leave and then go into college it's a struggle for them there and then those folks become teachers and then they come back to the K-12 system and it's kind of that cycle that we have to in some way break that cycle."

Among those seeking to teach at the high-school level, the pass rate dropped to 19 percent from 72.9 percent for math, to 25 percent from 66.7 percent for physics, to 52 percent from 65.1 percent for chemistry, to 52 percent from 59.1 percent for general sciences and to 55 percent from 79.9 percent for biology.

Katnik said that the state has some teacher shortages but it depends on the school district and how big their demand is for a certain subject or grade level.

"There are certain grade levels and content that people, more people flock to teach than in other ones and so shortage areas is relative," Katnik said. "There are certainly some of these assessments that reflect certification areas where we would certainly like to have more teachers there, that has to be a part of what we keep our eye on as we monitoring this."

DESE said people can still apply for teaching jobs without passing the test. If they get an offer, they can get a provisional certification that gives them two years to pass the certification exam.

Other changes being considered by DESE are reconvening committees involved in the development of some of the math and science tests to ensure that the tests are measuring the right things. So far, the state isn't recommending that the scores required to pass the exams be lowered, although that is an option in the future.