The purpose of this pilot investigation was to determine the predictive effects of critical thinking abilities, reading ability, grade-point average (GPA), age, gender, and TASP (Texas Academic Skills Program) scores (math, reading, and writing) on future teachers' performance on the Professional Development parts of the Examination for the Certification of Educators in Texas (ExCET). To collect the data, a total of 116 subjects was selected from those enrolled in the undergraduate and emergency certification programs. All subjects were administered the Cornell Critical Thinking Test and the Nelson Denny Reading Test, and additional demographic data and test scores were obtained from University records. Application of multiple linear regression techniques revealed that the entire set of proposed independent variables could be used as predictors; however, when each independent variable was tested separately, only critical thinking abilities were predictive of successful performance on the Professional Development scores on the ExCET.
The education reform movement of the 1980s was characterized by state-level reform laws and policy changes identified and implemented by governors and state legislatures. The period has become known as the "excellence movement," an era which responded to the recommendations in "A Nation at Risk," a 1983 report from the National Commission on Excellence in Education (Educational Testing Service, 1990). Focusing on strategies for reforming teacher education, many states implemented competency testing as a requirement for teacher licensure (Huang, Morsink, Baird, Howe, Houle, & Compton, 1990). By 1990, 36 states were using some type of certification test (Childs and Lawrence, 1990). Currently, the reform movement remains very much alive, but a new emphasis centers on the nature of testing.
Certification for secondary teaching in Texas requires that preservice teachers successfully complete a series of comprehensive examinations in their teaching fields and in professional knowledge before entering full-time teaching. The Professional Development portion of the Certification of Educators in Texas (ExCET) consists of criterion-referenced multiple-choice tests. The tests are intended to assess the candidate's knowledge in relation to an established standard of competencies rather than in relation to the performance of other candidates. The standard of competencies require the professional educator to function competently and according to professional standards. The tests measure the candidate's ability to understand learners, enhance student achievement, and understand the teaching environment.
Candidates may retake the tests until a passing score is obtained (National Evaluation Systems, 1997). However, if certain percentages of students fail to pass the tests over a period of time, then institutions may lose their certification role. Establishing cutoff scores is a major problem in using competency testing for teacher certification. Requiring high scores for passing may prevent many potentially good teachers from entering education, but setting low scores for passing may create a negative attitude toward teaching because of the large numbers of individuals who would be certified (Popham & Yalow, 1984). There are, then, complex problems involved in using paper-and-pencil testing for licensure, and teacher educators are searching feverishly to identify variables which may predict success on state certification examinations. The power of the relationship between critical thinking (Goldwair, 1978; Little, 1972; McCammon, Golden, & Wuensch, 1988; Parker, 1984; Rachel, 1989; Scott & Markert, 1994); reading ability (Allen, 1991; Feldt, 1988; Kessler & Pezzetti, 1990; Roberts, Suderman, Suderman, & Semb, 1990; Wood, 1988); and academic achievement is documented in research studies. Therein lies the justification for the inclusion of these variables in the present pilot investigation. …