Candidate Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions

Candidate Assessment Meeting Standards

Candidates develop their content knowledge through the general education program, coursework, and field experiences. The professional education programs integrate content knowledge and professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills. There are a number of indicators that teacher candidates are well prepared in the content that they plan to teach: candidate scores on the Core Academic Skills Test and Praxis II exams; candidate grades in professional education courses; candidate GPAs; faculty evaluations; program evaluations from the state approval process; program reviews by the national specialty and professional associations; and survey responses from student teachers, recent graduates, cooperating teachers, and school administrators.

Core Academic Skills Test and Praxis II Exams: The state of NH requires all candidates for certification to validate their basic skills proficiency by passing the Core Academic Skills assessments in reading, mathematics and writing prior to becoming certified to teach. The state has set passing scores of 156 for reading and 162 for writing and 150 for mathematics. Since the state instituted this requirement for licensure, PSU has made passing the Core Academic Skills Test a requirement for teacher certification candidacy, student teaching, and graduation from professional education programs. Our passing rate, therefore, is 100% every year. For candidates in post baccalaureate programs, the Core Academic Skills Test is not required by the state if the candidate seeks certification after the master’s degree is awarded. The state also requires that all applicants for certification in Art, Life Science (7-12), Early Childhood Studies, Elementary Education, English Education (5-12), Mathematics (5-8 and7-12), and Social Science Education (5-12) submit passing scores on the Praxis II exam their content areas. PSU strongly recommends that candidates in these programs take the Praxis II exam just prior to student teaching; however, taking and passing the Praxis II exam is not a requirement for student teaching or graduation.

Data representing the last three years is posted under Exhibits. In 2008-2009, a total of 136 program completers took one or more tests in a category and within their area of specialization. A total of 125 passed all tests taken in a category and within their specialization (92% pass rate). This pass rate indicates that candidates are proficient in basic skills within their content. Aggregated data for academic content areas (math, biology, english, etc)  included 79 completers, 64 who passed the exam (81% pass rate).

For programs that are not required to take the content exam and have gone through a national review, a content exam was developed by program faculty and item analyses were computed for each item to ensure validity and reliability of the test item. These programs (Physical Education, Health Education, General Special Education, Library Media, School Psychology, and Reading Writing) have a pass rate of over 80%. Data and analyses may be found in specific SPA reports.

Faculty Evaluations: Faculty complete evaluations for all candidates prior to acceptance into the teacher certification program at the baccalaureate level and recommendations are required of all post baccalaureate candidates prior to acceptance to the institution. The evaluations and recommendations assess dispositions. Data has been aggregated and reviewed for the baccalaureate programs however, the post baccalaureate data is not analyzed holistically. Data indicates that the range of scores are between 4-5 (see form) on all items.

Candidate GPAs and Grades: The requirement for a cumulative GPA of 2.7 for admission to teacher certification reinforces to potential candidates the importance of maintaining a solid grade point average. Three programs Mathematics and Social Science, Science, require a 2.5 for admission into the teacher certification program and post baccalaureate candidates must have a 3.0 GPA in order to student teach.

Grades in content courses are based on multiple assessments. many of these assessments are designed to evaluate both what the candidates knows and how he/she is able to apply that knowledge. Candidates also develop portfolios throughout their professional education programs that must include evidence of their content knowledge aligned with state and national standards as well as the Unit’s conceptual framework and diversity framework. An examination of the candidate work samples included within the exhibits will reveal the range of assessments and the standards for grading candidates.

State and National Approval Process: A full review of our teacher certification programs was completed by the New Hampshire Department of Education (NH DOE) during fall 2009. This review included all baccalaureate and post baccalaureate teacher certification and advanced preparation programs and endorsements. The review included a self assessment by the unit and each program, collection of artifacts aligned with the NH DOE initial teacher standards (ED 610.02), and the NH DOE content standards (ED 612s and 614s). All programs produced a cross walk which indicated the alignment of state and national standards. Programs were required to submit a matrix linking program courses and assignments to state standards. Chemistry Education and Curriculum Administrator (endorsement) were approved as a new program on a provisional status through August 2012. Biology (post baccalaureate), Computer Technology (post baccalaureate), English Language Arts (post baccalaureate) and Elementary Education (post baccalaureate) were given conditional approval through August 2012. The conditional programs were not submitted for national review so that the faculty can revise the curriculum and implement and address the unmet standards identified by the state. Once full approval is granted, the faculty will develop and implement the required 6-8 assessments needed to demonstrate candidate knowledge, skills and dispositions.

The following programs were reviewed at the national level: Health Education (post bac), Elementary Education, School Library/Media, Special Education, Principal, Superintendent, Reading Writing Specialist, Early Childhood Studies, School Psychology, Physical Education, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Mathematics 7-12 and 5-8, and English as a Second Language (baccalaureate and post bac). The rigorous process of program review by specialty and professional associations requires detailed assessments and data review for continuous improvement. Achieving National Recognition status through this process can be considered evidenced that candidates know the content knowledge that they plan to teach.

Sixteen programs leading to initial teacher certification and advanced certification submitted program reports to their respective SPAs (listed under PRS).  Language and Linguistics (French and Spanish); Social Studies (post bac) Mathematics (post bac 5-8 and 7-12) and Health Education (bac) deferred national review due to low enrollments (less than 5 within the program). Additionally Chemistry did not submit a report because it is a newly established program. Of the programs submitted only Physical Education received National Recognition status on the first review. All programs are submitted revisions in March 2011. Additionally, School Counseling was reviewed by CACREP and is approved until 2015.  Art Education and Music Education were not reviewed by a national specialty association and data from these programs are under exhibits.

All teacher education programs have been diligent in addressing weaknesses identified by the state and national reviews. Through both the state approval process and the NCATE program review process, teacher education programs and advanced programs have provided documentation and evidence that teacher candidates and professional personnel know the subject matter that they plan to teach and can explain important principles and concepts delineated in state and professional standards.

Survey Responses – Student teachers are surveyed each semester using an instrument developed by Education Benchmarking, Inc. (EBI). The 75-item survey includes questions related to candidates’ perception of their understanding of content. The survey data is aggregated and analyzed each year by EBI, which provides the institution with a detailed report on its findings including comparisons to other institutions. Consistently, teacher candidates at PSU indicate that they feel confident of their knowledge of their subject matter. This is consistent with feedback from focus groups of student teachers which the unit has been collecting and reviewing by program.

The unit has conducted bi-annual surveys of cooperating teachers. Additionally, surveys are conducted of alumni and school administrators every three years. Survey data collected thus far indicates that all groups rate PSU candidates and graduates as knowledgeable of their subject matter and of child and adolescent development. We continue to review trends in the data so that we can respond appropriately.

Continuous Improvement

PSU has seen many changes since the last NCATE visit in content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and skills, pedagogical and professional knowledge and skills, and professional dispositions including the following:

1.  Core Academic Skills Test and Praxis II: The state of New Hampshire implemented the Praxis II test for the identified programs listed in B.1 above. The Praxis II is not a requirement for graduation however it is required by the NH DOE for certification.  Programs do not include specific preparation for the test, though help is available for those who need assistance with test-taking strategies and specific content areas.

The PSU Council of Teacher Education has begun discussion on the number of candidates who have needed to take the Core Academic Skills Test more than one time. The goal is to plan and implement support for candidates needing assistance passing the Core Academic Skills Test. Currently candidates who do not pass Core Academic Skills Test in three attempts are permitted to take an alternative test (Woodcock Johnson) by the state of NH. The unit is working with the state in seeking clarification on the use of SAT scores for general knowledge. Program specific curricular changes have been made (see Minutes of CTE) to address deficiencies in content knowledge based on data and changes in state and national standards.

Overall, we have noticed that the pass rate of Praxis II scores reported to our Unit are below the overall 80% pass rate. There are a number of reasons that could account for this including: (1) passing the Praxis II test is not a requirement for completion of the program or graduation from the university therefore we do not have data that aligns with completers; (2) based on the data reported to us by ETS we are unable to identify if students are taking the test more than once; and (3) candidates often do not identify PSU when taking the test therefore, scores are not reported.

Faculty have been reviewing the results and have identified weaknesses. Curriculum changes are being implemented in order to address these areas. Additionally, faculty have been involved in ETS standard setting studies in order to improve the Praxis II test.

For programs in which Praxis II is not required, exit content exams have been developed and implemented. The following programs require an exit content exam: physical education, health education, special education, school psychology, library media, and reading and writing specialist. The items on the exams were validated using content validity by having faculty and practicing teachers/specialists review the questions for clarity and content. Additionally item analyses were computed for each item. Over time, questions have been edited and revised based on these analyses. Candidates are required to score an 80% or better on the exam which is administered and proctored in a computer lab on campus, therefore there is a 100% pass rate for all content exit exams.

In addition to these standardized assessments of content knowledge, certification candidates in all programs (both initial and advanced levels) are required to demonstrate their content, pedagogical, and professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions through their individual portfolios. PSU has hired a Director of Learning Technologies and Online Education who has assisted unit faculty with the implementation of a new electronic portfolio (efolio) system, Mahara. Faculty have begun implementing this efolio into programs with full implementation across the unit occurring over the next 12 months. Data from the folios will be tracked through the new data management system, TracDat over the next year.

2.  GPA and Course Grades: The unit has discussed the importance of GPA as a requirement to student teach. Candidates who are unable to attain the GPA are counseled out of teacher certification. Additionally a number of baccalaureate programs have implemented a minimum grade for methods courses in order to student teach. These requirements have been implemented over the past two academic years.

3.  Programs submitting for national review developed and implemented 6-8 assessments and have collected and analyzed data. Candidates’ content knowledge is demonstrated within the SPA reports. Additionally, program improvements have been made based on these data (see SPA reports).  The programs that have not passed the national SPA review have revised rubrics and assignments and are collecting data this semester. The intent is to resubmit these programs for review during the spring cycle. The programs who have not received full state approval have been working at the program level to implement new assignments that would be used as performance based evidence to be presented to the NH DOE for review during the fall 2011.

4.  The data from the surveys strongly indicate that our candidates are strong in content knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Over the past year, we have been working with the College of Graduate Studies (COGS) to implement surveys in order to collect similar data for post baccalaureate candidates. The systematic implementation of similar assessment systems across the unit have helped us to review data holistically.

After the state review, a number of systems have been put into place in order to ensure that all candidates are meeting the state and national standards. A formal transcript review process in which content courses are identified by program coordinators at the post baccalaureate level has been implemented. All candidates seeking initial teacher certification are going to be required to take the Foundations of Teaching course within their program. Additionally, the implementation of Praxis I for all teacher certification candidates at the post baccalaureate level will be implemented within the gate system. The COGS has hired a contract faculty to implement these curricular changes across programs with the assistance of the Coordinator of Certification and Director of Teacher Education.