INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Exam rates for Indiana teacher candidate licensing have shown outcome disparities for decades.
But, a new report shines a light on the passing results and how the tests’ construction could impact pass rates for Black and Hispanic teacher candidates.
An Indiana University associate professor is working with a 14-state consortium to look at how teacher tests were developed. The professor’s work forced him to take a closer look specifically at Indiana. In the process, he found broad disparities in passing rates with Black and Hispanic candidates. He’s also found ways he believes will improve the odds.
The nationwide teacher shortage is helping put attention on how people become teachers in the first place. Alex Cuenca is an associate professor of curriculum instruction at IU Bloomington, so he helps prepare educator hopefuls.
“So, that’s why we’re trying to raise questions about who is in the room and what the dynamics are and how that might relate to this wide gap that we’re seeing from white and Black teacher candidates,” Cuenca said.
In 2021, Indiana University was part of a 14-state consortium to look at how different states create licensing exams.
“What happens in the room is that a bunch of experts gather together, and you have individuals who are looking at test items and trying to decide whether a person could reasonably pass that item,” Cuenca said.
The consortium sent him on a path to find out what the disparities meant for Indiana. Many times, he says, the diversity in the room doesn’t match up with the testing population.
“So if you think of test items around Black history, which chances are members of the Black community understand Black history in ways the white community won’t,” he said. “If a test item does appear on that and you have an all-white panel looking at that assessment or that particular item, chances are that item is going to be kicked out.”
The data shows the disparities go back decades. The act of failing tests, he says, has come with the disappointment and often-extended financial burden.
Jenny Cloncs with The Mind Trust, said, “Educators of color to really matter. They’re able to connect with students that share similar backgrounds and experiences, which we know we can help, will help lead to academic long-term success.”
The Mind Trust, a separate education advocacy organization, is working to diversify the teaching pool, providing financial relief through a partnership with Marian University’s Klipsch Educators College.
“It’s really an exciting partnership. We’re covering two-thirds of the tuition costs for various licensure and degree program,” Cloncs said.
Cuenca says the goal is not to eliminate licensing exams, but diversify the voices in the room that create them.