Date of Graduation

5-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Statistics and Research Methods (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Rehabilitation, Human Resources and Communication Disorders

Advisor

Sean Mulvenon

Committee Member

Ronna Turner

Second Committee Member

Charles Stegman

Third Committee Member

Tim Martin

Keywords

Education; Credentials; Licensure exams; Qualified teachers; Teacher licensure

Abstract

The highly qualified provision of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act promoted licensure exams on a national level. The present study is an effort to explore the most commonly used Praxis licensure exams and their passing scores. Hypothesized was that passing scores are set at such a minimal level that they are ineffectual in identifying highly qualified teachers. More specifically, Arkansas's low passing scores are examined by comparing the distribution of University of Arkansas Praxis scores to national trends. Based on low passing scores, the question was posed - At what point in teachers' careers are expectations lessened? Academic data from Elementary Education graduates of the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions were compared to colleagues with the conjecture that they would fall below. Finally, as the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind looms, the mandate for highly qualified teachers has become energized with the call for effective teachers. Student gains data of relatively new teachers from a local district were regressed on teacher scores on content knowledge exams as well as years of experience to explore the relationships.

SEA passing scores were found to be low with all but a few exceptions using cut scores for licensure exams below the median of the national testing pool. Further, University of Arkansas testers, replicated national trends in scoring on Praxis exams eliminating any justification for Arkansas employing minimal standards. As conjectured, Elementary Education graduates of the U of A presented academic credentials below that of colleagues thus exacerbating the highly qualified conundrum. Lastly, the attempt to connect student achievement to teacher content knowledge through Praxis exam scores and years of experience proved unsuccessful.

Higher standards, particularly for Elementary Education graduates, were discussed in the context of the Common Core State Standards and the push for effective teaching.

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