Academic journal article American Journal of Educational Studies

Teacher Licensure and Qualified Teachers: Are Certification Examinations Enough?

Academic journal article American Journal of Educational Studies

Teacher Licensure and Qualified Teachers: Are Certification Examinations Enough?

Article excerpt


In order to address the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) criteria stipulating that all teachers in all schools are highly qualified, teacher certification is examined. Teacher certification specifically looks at content knowledge for the appropriate subject areas. This paper examines the history of state requirements for teacher certification leading to our current trend. The types of certification exams used by state are described. The Praxis II for mathematics is compared to a popular Algebra text used in many classrooms for content alignment.

Keywords: Teacher licensure, Highly qualified teacher, Praxis


When the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was passed into law in 2001, one criteria stipulated that schools were to ensure that all teachers were highly qualified by the 2005-2006 school year. NCLB defines highly qualified teachers as those who have 1) a bachelor's degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) proof that they know each subject they teach (NCLB, 2001). Former governor George Busbee of Alabama commented decades before in the February 1980 Legislative Review, "...unless we have adequate assessment of quality of teachers to both pass the criterion referenced test and satisfactorily demonstrate good teaching skills on the job... we have failed (Hathaway, 1980)." This preemptive notion brought to light the idea of requiring teacher testing.

One measure of teacher quality is teacher licensure tests. Latham, Gitomer, and Ziomekl (1999) supported teacher testing as such a measure. The proliferation of medical licensing in the early 20th century demonstrated the increase of professionalism in the medical field (Angrist and Guryan, 2005). Occupational licensing provided a measure of professional quality causing proponents of teacher licensing to want to follow suit (Angrist and Guryan, 2005).

During the 1990s, student expectations climbed regarding knowledge needed for graduation. However, the demands for the rigorous increases in student requirements were not matched by a strong demand for an increase in teachers' knowledge (Mitchell and Barth, 1999; Hall, 1896; McLaughlin and Chaddock, 1998). Americans were not satisfied with the disparate increase in expectations. A March 1993 MONEY Reader's poll disproportionately indicated (78%) support of a requirement for teachers to pass a national competency test, and to do so at least every five years. Americans then, and now, fear that unless we improve the quality of our teachers, the quality of our students' education will also not be improved (Shanker, 1996).

Progression of Teacher Licensure

When our country was establishing its roots, the qualifications for becoming a teacher were much more relaxed. According to a manifesto on teacher qualifications written in 1875, "If a teacher has and loves knowledge, and has a strong and quick feeling for childhood, a few simple and easily taught rules, devices and a few dozen lessons... are enough for the rank and file (Hall, 1896)." People of this era believed that good teachers were born, not made (Angus, 2001). The view has markedly changed over the last two centuries; teachers now must pass competency tests to verify they possess enough knowledge to teach our nation's children. However, this notion of teacher examination is not new and has actually had a cyclic effect during the development of the United States.

During the 1830s and 1840s, schools were changing from privately funded institutions to free common school (Angus, 2001). The country was littered with one-teacher schools serving children in small districts, while cities were populated with multi-classroom schools offering "graded" instruction. The idea of "common" free school brought to light that the teachers of the rural and urban schools should be equally qualified to teach and thus have had equal training. As these schools were markedly different, this idea of where and how teachers should be trained sparked controversy (Angus, 2001). …

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