Rod Driver

Editorial from the Providence Journal, August 11, 1998

The ultimate pass-fail

We have commented on the appalling results of recent teacher testing in Massachusetts ("The depressing teacher tests," editorial, July 16). But things are even worse in Rhode Island, as University of Rhode Island math professor and congressional candidate Rod Driver reminds us. As Mr. Driver notes, the required minimum score for teacher certification in Rhode Island is zero.

Seems that in 1991, a Rhode Island law was enacted declaring that no one would be denied teacher certification just because he or she had failed the National Teachers Examination, which is given to candidates for certification. This amazing law reads: "No person shall be barred from certification under this chapter solely because of his or her score on any standardized teacher's examination." Indeed, as Professor Driver notes, the only downside to failing the exam is a provisional teacher's certification and a potential three-year job-performance review.

According to Professor Driver, the reason this bit of junk was passed, by large margins, was that "minority candidates were failing the test at a slightly higher rate than majority candidates. Never mind the fact that they were permitted to retake the test until they passed." And indeed, a state "Commission to Study Standardized Testing" was appointed, and reported to the General Assembly in 1989 that it could not find any items in the National Teachers Examination that were "racially biased."

As Rodney Driver notes, Rhode Island is out in front in relaxing standards for teacher certification. And we can see some of the results in our schools. As Mr. Driver noted in his column in The Sun, of Westerly, way back on May 16, 1991, the attack on the tests sends "the wrong message to our students at a time when it is critical to foster the value of high academic standards. ... It surely is not too much to ask that passing such a test be one requirement for a teaching certificate."