How Well do Universities Prepare Pre-Service Candidates to Pass Licensure Exam?

August 25, 2021

Driven by Data: Using Licensure Tests to Build a Strong, Diverse Teacher Workforce. Essential to improving educational outcomes for students is to assure that well prepared teachers are in every classroom.  Teacher preparation programs are primarily responsible for preparing candidates.  One measure of how well institutions are preparing teachers is the percentage of candidates that pass state licensure tests.  The National Council on Teacher Quality ( recently released a report examining the pass rate of elementary education teachers by state, by de-identified teacher preparation institutions, and disaggregated data for candidates of color and socio-economic status.  Different states have different standards, rely on different methods to assess performance, and have different criteria for passing scores.  Thirty-four states provided complete data for this report, eight provided partial data, and nine states provided no data.  Based on the available data, nationally 55% of teacher candidates failed the exam on their first try.  The data vary considerably across states and across institutions within and across states.  One of the conclusions of this report is that elementary teacher candidates, regardless of race and ethnicity, are “too often poorly prepared and supported to pass their state licensure tests.”  The authors of the report identified a number of issues with how states are currently assessing teacher competency.  The report concludes with a number of recommendations for improving teacher preparation programs so that more teachers pass the licensure test.  These data are directly relevant to the competency implementation driver in the Active Implementation Frameworks.  Implementation efforts are not likely to be successful if competent personnel are not available to implement the innovation.  Competency is primarily the responsibility of the teacher preparation programs.  These programs would be well served to attend to the recommendations of this report.  In addition, education policy makers should review their state’s current methods for assessing the competency of teacher candidates.

Citation: Putman, H. & Walsh, K. (2021). Driven by Data: Using Licensure Tests to Build a Strong, Diverse Teacher Workforce. Washington, D.C.: National Council on Teacher Quality