California had a problem. Too many would-be teachers were unable to pass the CBEST or CSET exams to earn their credential.
The CBEST measures basic skills and the CSET ensures that teachers know the subjects they teach.
According to data from the state, about one-third of teacher candidates could not pass the tests.
Rather than improve the colleges that are supposed to prepare the teachers, what did California do?
You guessed it — the state simply dropped the exam requirement. Presto. Problem solved. That will fix the teacher shortage.
Except now they have a far greater problem — teachers who cannot even pass the notoriously simple CBEST will be teaching California children.
There’s been next to nothing in the news about this because the state credentialing commission quietly put out press release a couple of weeks ago.
The Fox affiliate in Oakland, KTVU, picked up the story and I saw it online.
The spin from the state makes you dizzy: “This is a game-changer for those who have dreamt of becoming a teacher only to find their paths blocked when they couldn’t pass the Basic Skills or Subject Matter entrance exams,” said Mary Vixie Sandy, executive director of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Reads like satire, doesn’t it? Oh, how wonderful for those candidates whose dreams will come true!
Sorry, but what about the children who will be taught by teachers who — as the commission admits — do not have basic skills or cannot show mastery of their
As a retired teacher, I understand that there is more to teaching than taking tests. But you need at least basic knowledge and the ability to think.
According to numbers provided by the state, “Nearly 66 percent of the people who took the CBEST in 2019-20 passed it on the first try and 83 percent passed after multiple attempts.”
What you must understand is that the CBEST is a basic skills test, and they mean basic. I was stunned to learn that anyone failed it, much less one-third of first-timers.
I took the CBEST and CSET a decade ago and taught for nine years. Every teacher or teacher candidate I ever spoke with calls the CBEST easy, even “embarrassing” because it is so easy.
How can anyone get a college diploma and be unable to pass this test? Don’t take my word for it; look up “CBEST practice exams” and see for yourself.
I honestly thought it was elementary level, but a friend who used to grade the essays for the state told me it was supposed to be geared to the 10th-grade level.
Maybe 10th grade now is equal to sixth grade decades ago. But even so, why so low a bar as 10th grade?
The CBEST tests basic math, a little logic, reading and writing.
Here’s an example from a practice test I found:
“During a semester, a student received scores of 76, 80, 83, 71, 80, and 78 on six tests. What is the student’s average score for these six tests?”
Add six two-digit numbers and divide by six? Didn’t we do that in fourth grade? Oh, and it’s multiple choice.
“Rob uses 1 box of cat food every 5 days to feed his cats. Approximately how many boxes of cat food does he use per month?”
Here’s one to test critical thinking skills:
“There will be softball practice every Saturday throughout the season with the following exceptions: (1) If it rains, softball practice will be canceled. (2) There is no softball practice on the third Saturday of the month.
“If it is Saturday but there is no softball practice, then it must be true that…”
Again, it’s multiple choice, and obviously it’s either raining or it’s the third Saturday of the month.
According to the state, “The CSET (subject matter test), which is actually a suite of tests, had a first-time passage rate of about 67 percent in 2019-20. About 81 percent of the teacher candidates who took the test multiple times passed.”
The state at least requires that, in absence of the CSET, candidates have a degree in their subject area to be able to teach that subject.
But what are those college degrees worth if we have graduates who cannot pass the CBEST?
The whole thing is frightening.
William P. Warford’s column appears every Friday and Sunday.