Teacher test leaves integrity in a state

17th July 1998 at 01:00
MASSACHUSETTS is considered one of America's most intellectual states, the home of its first free state schools and its best university, Harvard. So, it would not be an exaggeration to say it was a national embarrassment when almost 60 per cent of 1,800 qualified teachers failed a literacy and basic skills test.

No less embarrassing was the board of education's initial response to the test which produced spelling gems such as "integraty", "relif" and "belive" - it lowered the pass mark.

The education graduates' errors covered "messures", "improbally", "survalance" and "invatation". Their sentences offered fuller versions:

"They felt their right to privacy was being impared upon," and "This method of observation should not be aloud under any cercumstances."

The board's vote to lower the standard meant candidates who got barely half the questions right would be allowed to teach. After a week of public outrage, it restored the pass mark. The education commissioner resigned.

"I can tell you who won't be great teachers: the idiots who took that test and flunked it miserably," said Thomas Finneran, the speaker of the state House of Representatives. He also disparaged "the idiots who passed them through whatever college they went to".

The governor filed a bill to force even current teachers to take a certification test.

The president of the state Senate proposed giving $20,000 (Pounds 12,500) signing bonuses to lure teachers from other states and to persuade people working in other, better-paying fields to go into teaching: almost a starting teacher's first-year salary.

James F Carlin, the chairman of the education board demanded accountability from presidents of colleges with education schools, and warned them not to sidestep the issue.

"I do not want to get involved in an intellectual debate over whether education school graduates are poorly prepared because their mothers didn't love themI Let's, for this task, build on a premise that far too many education school graduates are not prepared to teach."

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