New York

Learning from institutional pass rates on elementary content teacher licensure tests

Flagship analysis — July 2021

Overview

The nation needs a strong, diverse teacher workforce to live up to its promise of equal opportunity for all.

A diverse teacher workforce benefits all students, particularly students of color. At the same time, students need teachers who know content. Both qualities are essential for a strong teacher workforce. Both are achievable.

Pass rate data illuminates the challenges that must be overcome to achieve a strong, diverse teacher workforce.

Currently, policymakers, state education agencies, and teacher prep programs have little insight into when aspiring teachers leave the path into the classroom, largely due to missing or inaccurate data. This makes it hard to identify when and why aspiring teachers exit the pipeline and where to focus efforts and resources to support them.

Here NCTQ shares new data, never before published, on a pivotal point in the pipeline for elementary teachers: when aspiring teachers take licensure tests, one of the final steps before earning a teaching license. Pass rates, or the rate at which teacher candidates pass their licensing tests, serve as a compass, pointing toward strengths and opportunities in preparing teacher candidates.

With this information, states and programs now have the opportunity to look at the data from multiple perspectives. Each lens conveys important insights on the quality of institutions’ preparation, their level of encouragement and support for retaking a failed test, persistence on the part of test takers, as well as commitment and innovation to overcome educational inequities and inadequate K-12 preparation.

NCTQ is making each state’s data available for download to encourage additional analysis, urging states and institutions to consider stronger data systems that capture this data on an ongoing basis.

The Problem

Why do licensure tests matter?

There’s little disagreement among teachers, parents, teacher educators, and state officials that teachers need to know the content they will teach.

Teachers cannot teach what they do not know. Elementary teachers should demonstrate that they know core content before they start teaching, according to 95% of state education agency leaders, 84% of prep program leaders, and 98% of teachers.

Licensure tests are the most common way to measure an elementary teacher’s content knowledge. When well designed, they are:

  • Comparable
  • Reliable
  • Scaleable
  • Comprehensive
  • Cost Effective

While more could always be done to remove bias from the test instrument itself and the test experience, licensure tests also undergo a rigorous bias review process.

And where states have done the research, almost all studies find evidence that they predict future teacher effectiveness.

Analysis for New York

Exploring pass rate data through many different lenses helps to identify successful institutions who get the most teacher candidates across the finish line.

Equipped with the data included here, state and teacher prep program leaders can determine what outcomes they value with regard to building a strong, diverse, knowledgeable teacher workforce, and can evaluate the data through the lens of not just one but multiple values.

The following examples illustrate different approaches to analyzing pass rate data and how these approaches can help identify institutions with strong preparation programs that may offer guidance for their peers.

Best-Attempt Pass Rates

Teacher candidates have multiple opportunities to pass their test. To explore where most test takers are passing, regardless of the number of attempts, examine institutions’ best attempt pass rates.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

Best-attempt pass rates

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. How much variation is there between institutions’ pass rates?
  2. Where do test takers struggle to pass even after their best attempt?
  3. What are the stand-out institutions doing to support their candidates?

The average best-attempt pass rate in New York is 88%, with institutions ranging from 46% to 100%.

One way some states report the data is ‘best-attempt’ pass rates—the number of test takers who pass regardless of the number of attempts. When reported for all test takers, this gives an accurate but limited picture.

Examining these pass rates at the institution level illustrates which institutions help test takers across the licensure test finish line.

While this data is informative, it obscures the burden on candidates from having to take a test multiple times before passing, perhaps because they did not receive adequate preparation.

Best-attempt pass rates by institution on the NYSTCE Multi-Subject Teachers of Childhood Mathematics subtest

Notes

The Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) was used for this analysis because based on first attempt pass rates in the state, it is the most challenging for test takers. Download the full state data spreadsheet to see pass rates for each subtest.

Because New York provided data disaggregated by race/ethnicity for each institution, some data is lost due to small numbers of test takers in racial/ethnic groups within institutions. This pass rate data represents 37,318 test takers, but excludes 4,140 test takers.

Pass rates could not be reported for Cayuga Community College (formerly Cayuga County Community College), Colgate University, Columbia-Greene Community College, SUNY Corning Community College, Baruch College, New York City College of Technology (City Tech), Dowling College – Brookhaven Campus, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Empire State College, Erie Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Five Towns College, Fordham University – Westchester Campus, Genesee Community College, Herkimer College, Hudson Valley Community College, Jamestown Community College, Jefferson Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LIU Hudson at Westchester, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Marymount Manhattan College, Medaille College – Amherst Campus, Mercy College – Manhattan Campus, Metropolitan College of New York, Mohawk Valley Community College, Monroe College New Rochelle campus, Monroe College, Monroe Community College, Niagara County Community College, New York Institute of Technology – New York City (Manhattan) campus, Onondaga Community College, Orange County Community College, Queensborough Community College, Rockland Community College, State University of New York, Russell Sage College – Albany Campus (formerly Sage College of Albany), Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Siena College, St. Lawrence University, SUC at Plattsburgh at Adirondack Community College, Sullivan County Community College, Stony Brook University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, SUNY Ulster, Wells College, Westchester Community College, SUNY Cobleskill, Bard College, SUNY Delhi, and Pratt Institute due to low numbers of test takers in all categories.

First-Attempt Pass Rates

As having to take the test multiple times costs candidates additional money and delays in being able to get a teaching job, first-attempt pass rates offer an important perspective on the data.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

First-attempt pass rates

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. How much variation is there between the institutions with the highest and lowest first-time pass rate?
  2. At institutions where test takers struggle, what could they do to foster greater success?
  3. What are the stand-out institutions doing to support their candidates?

In New York, 73% of test takers pass the elementary mathematics subtest on their first attempt, but this average masks significant variation among institutions.

This measure of how many test takers pass on their first attempt offers further insight into whether candidates have to expend time and money on multiple retakes, and whether programs offer content preparation that aligns with the state’s expectations.

For states and preparation programs, the first-attempt pass rate can identify potential gaps in preparation and point toward the need for better support for candidates, such as course requirements more aligned with the needs of elementary teachers.

First-attempt pass rates on the NYSTCE Multi-Subject Teachers of Childhood Mathematics subtest

Notes

The Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) was used for this analysis because based on first attempt pass rates in the state, it is the most challenging for test takers. Download the full state data spreadsheet to see pass rates for each subtest.

Because New York provided data disaggregated by race/ethnicity for each institution, some data is lost due to small numbers of test takers in racial/ethnic groups within institutions. This pass rate data represents 38,021 test takers, but excludes 4,117 test takers.

Pass rates could not be reported for Cayuga Community College (formerly Cayuga County Community College), Colgate University, College of Mount Saint Vincent, Columbia-Greene Community College, SUNY Corning Community College, Baruch College, New York City College of Technology (City Tech), Dowling College – Brookhaven Campus, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Empire State College, Erie Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Five Towns College, Fordham University – Westchester Campus, Genesee Community College, Herkimer College, Hudson Valley Community College, Jamestown Community College, Jefferson Community College, Kingsborough Community College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Marymount Manhattan College, Medaille College – Amherst Campus, Mercy College – Manhattan Campus, Mohawk Valley Community College, Monroe College New Rochelle campus, Monroe College, Monroe Community College, Niagara County Community College, New York Institute of Technology – New York City (Manhattan) campus, Onondaga Community College, Orange County Community College, Queensborough Community College, Rockland Community College, State University of New York, Russell Sage College – Albany Campus (formerly Sage College of Albany), Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Siena College, St. Lawrence University, Sullivan County Community College, Stony Brook University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, SUNY Ulster, Wells College, Westchester Community College, SUNY Cobleskill, Bard College, SUNY Delhi, and Pratt Institute due to low numbers of test takers in all categories.

Walk-Away Rates

To identify where aspiring teachers get lost in the pipeline, examine the walk-away rate—the proportion of test takers who fail on their first attempt and do not retake the test.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

Walk-away rates

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. How many aspiring teachers does my state lose each year after they fail their licensure test?
  2. How are institutions with lower “walk-away rates” supporting their candidates?
  3. Who stops attempting the test after failing the first time? How can those test takers be better supported?

Two in five New York test takers who fail their content knowledge test on the first attempt do not try again.

All test takers
Based on the mathematics subtest
Test takers of color
Based on the mathematics subtest

In the aggregate, low first-attempt pass rates may point to a misalignment between the preparation candidates receive and the state’s expectations for future elementary teachers.

On an individual level, failing these tests can be demoralizing, causing delays in job searches and unforeseen expenses to study for and retake the test.

Because retake numbers are not available on composite or assessment-level scores, when a state requires a test with multiple subtests, this analysis uses the subtest with the lowest pass rate. Test takers must pass each subtest in order to pass the overall test (though not necessarily in the same sitting), so using the lowest-scoring subtest best illustrates the challenges test takers face.

Notes

Download the full state data spreadsheet to see walk-away rates for each institution and subtest.

Three or More Attempts

To explore where test takers are more likely to succeed with the least amount of time and money spent on test-taking, examine retake rates.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

Three or more attempts

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. What supports do test takers need if they’re retaking the test multiple times?
  2. What can institutions do to help test takers succeed with fewer retakes?
  3. Pass rate data for this subtest for each institution can be downloaded at the link below. Among institutions with similar retake rates, which have higher or lower pass rates?

5% of test takers in New York take the most challenging subtest three or more times.

High percentages of test takers who take the test three or more times may indicate systemic problems such as low admissions standards, inadequate support, or too little attention to the content coursework candidates take.

Percent attempting the state’s Mathematics subtest 3 or more times

Notes

The Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) was used for this analysis because based on first attempt pass rates in the state, it is the most challenging for test takers. Download the full state data spreadsheet to see pass rates and proportion of test takers making three or more attempts for each subtest.

Orange County Community College, Queensborough Community College, Onondaga Community College, Alfred University, Bank Street College of Education, Boricua College, Baruch College, CUNY Lehman College, CUNY Medgar Evers College, New York City College of Technology (City Tech), CUNY York College, Canisius College, Colgate University, College of Mount Saint Vincent, The College of New Rochelle, The College of Saint Rose, Teachers College, Columbia University, Concordia College New York, Daemen College, Dominican College, Dowling College, D’Youville College, Elmira College, Five Towns College, Fordham University – Westchester Campus, Hartwick College, Iona College, Keuka College, Le Moyne College, LIU Riverhead, LIU Hudson at Rockland, LIU Hudson at Westchester, Manhattan College, Manhattanville College, Marist College, Marymount Manhattan College, Medaille College – Amherst campus, Mercy College – Bronx Campus, Mercy College – Yorktown Campus, Mercy College – Manhattan Campus, Metropolitan College of New York, New York Institute of Technology – New York City (Manhattan) campus, New York Institute of Technology – Long Island (Old Westbury) Campus, New York University, Niagara University, Nyack College, Pace University – Pleasantville Campus, Roberts Wesleyan College, Russell Sage College – Troy Campus (formerly Sage College of Troy), St. Bonaventure University, St. Francis College, St. John Fisher College, St. John’s University, St. John’s University – Staten Island Campus, St. Joseph’s College New York, St. Lawrence University, St. Thomas Aquinas College, Siena College, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Cortland, State University of New York at Fredonia, SUNY Geneseo, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Oneonta, State University of New York at Oswego, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Empire State College, SUNY at Albany, University at Buffalo, Stony Brook University, Touro College – Flatbush Campus, Touro College – Bay Shore Campus, Utica College, Wagner College, Wells College, Monroe College, Monroe College New Rochelle campus, and Relay Graduate School of Education – Alt Cert had too few test takers to report number of attempts.

Pass Rates by Admissions Selectivity

To identify and scale practices from institutions that successfully support all groups of test takers, sort pass rate data by categories such as admissions selectivity.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

Pass rates by admissions selectivity

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. How much variation is there between institutions’ pass rates within the same band of selectivity?
  2. At which less selective institutions do test takers earn higher pass rates? 
  3. What are the stand-out institutions doing to support their candidates?

New York has several institutions with lower levels of selectivity and high pass rates.

Organizing pass rate data by the admissions selectivity of the program or institution helps to identify places that are less selective and also achieve higher pass rates.

Institutions’ first-attempt pass rates on the NYSTCE Multi-Subject Teachers of Childhood Mathematics subtest, by selectivity

Notes

Graph updated 8/26/2021.

The Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) was used for this analysis because based on first attempt pass rates in the state, it is the most challenging for test takers. Download the full state data spreadsheet to see pass rates for each subtest.

Admissions selectivity for traditional institutions is measured using their undergraduate elementary program ratings from the 2021 Teacher Prep Review. In the absence of a rating, an equivalent score (identified in the graph hover-over by an asterisk) was determined using institutional median SAT/ACT scores or Barron’s selectivity ratings. Selectivity for alternative certification programs was determined using non-traditional program ratings from the 2021 Teacher Prep Review. See more here: www.nctq.org/review/standard/Admissions#scoringRubric. ‘Very selective’ represents an A on the Teacher Prep Review Admissions standard or its scoring equivalent, ‘Selective’ a B, ‘Moderately selective’ a C, ‘Less selective’ a D, and ‘Not selective’ an F. Institutions with a C, D, or F were classified as having “lower admissions selectivity.”

Based on input from the American Association of Community Colleges, all community colleges are identified as “Not selective.”

Pass Rates by Socioeconomic Factors

To identify and scale practices from institutions that successfully support all groups of test takers, sort pass rate data by categories such as the proportion of Pell grant recipients at the institution.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

Pass rates by socioeconomic factors

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. How much variation is there between institutions’ pass rates with higher or lower proportions of Pell grant recipients?
  2. What are the stand-out institutions doing to support their test takers?
  3. What additional supports may be valuable for institutions with more Pell grant recipients?

New York has several institutions with a high proportion of Pell grant recipients and high pass rates.

Institutions’ first-attempt pass rates on the NYSTCE Multi-Subject Teachers of Childhood Mathematics subtest, by percent of Pell grant recipients

Notes

The Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) was used for this analysis because based on first attempt pass rates in the state, it is the most challenging for test takers. Download the full state data spreadsheet to see pass rates for each subtest.

Proportion of Pell grant recipients refers to all undergraduate students at the institution, and not specifically to test takers.

Pass Rates for Test Takers of Color

To identify institutions supporting teachers of color in entering the workforce, examine pass rate data for test takers of color.

Consider these questions when exploring the data

Pass rates for test takers of color

Some questions can be answered based on data presented here, while others invite further exploration.

  1. Which institutions have higher pass rates for test takers of color? 
  2. Pass rates for all test takers, and for white test takers, can be downloaded at the link below. Which institutions have closed the gap in pass rates for test takers of color and white test takers?
  3. At which institutions could greater supports for test takers of color help to bring more teachers of color into the workforce?

New York’s institutions vary widely in first-attempt and best-attempt pass rates for test takers of color.

First-attempt and best-attempt pass rates on the NYSTCE Multi-Subject Teachers of Childhood Mathematics subtest for test takers of color

Notes

The Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) was used for this analysis because based on first attempt pass rates in the state, it is the most challenging for test takers. Download the full state data spreadsheet to see pass rates for each subtest.

Due to small variations in number of test takers, some institutions had enough test takers of color to report in one category (e.g., first-attempt pass rates) but not the other (e.g., best-attempt pass rates).

Pass rates for test takers of color could not be reported for the following institutions due to small numbers of test takers in all categories: Alfred University, Barnard College, Canisius College, Cayuga Community College (formerly Cayuga County Community College), Cazenovia College, Colgate University, The College of New Rochelle, The College of Saint Rose, Columbia-Greene Community College, Concordia College New York, SUNY Corning Community College, Baruch College, New York City College of Technology (City Tech), Dominican College, Dowling College – Brookhaven Campus, Dutchess Community College, D’Youville College, Elmira College, SUNY Empire State College, Erie Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Five Towns College, Fordham University – Westchester Campus, Genesee Community College, Hartwick College, Herkimer College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Houghton College, Hudson Valley Community College, Iona College, Ithaca College, Jamestown Community College, Jefferson Community College, Keuka College, Kingsborough Community College, LIU Brentwood, LIU Riverhead, LIU Hudson at Rockland, LIU Hudson at Westchester, Le Moyne College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Marymount Manhattan College, Medaille College – Amherst Campus, Mercy College – Manhattan Campus, Mercy College – Yorktown Campus, Metropolitan College of New York, Mohawk Valley Community College, Monroe College New Rochelle campus, Monroe College, Monroe Community College, Mount Saint Mary College, Nassau Community College, Nazareth College, Niagara County Community College, Niagara University, New York Institute of Technology – New York City (Manhattan) campus, New York Institute of Technology – Long Island (Old Westbury) Campus, Onondaga Community College, Orange County Community College, Queensborough Community College, Rockland Community College, State University of New York, Russell Sage College – Albany Campus (formerly Sage College of Albany), Russell Sage College – Troy Campus (formerly Sage College of Troy), Sarah Lawrence College, SUNY Schenectady County Community College, Siena College, Skidmore College, St. Bonaventure University, St. Francis College, St. John Fisher College, St. John’s University – Staten Island Campus, St. Lawrence University, St. Thomas Aquinas College, SUNY Brockport, State University of New York at Fredonia, SUNY Geneseo, State University of New York at Oswego, SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Potsdam, SUC at Plattsburgh at Adirondack Community College, Suffolk County Community College, Sullivan County Community College, SUNY at Albany, Binghamton University, University at Buffalo, Stony Brook University, Syracuse University, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Touro College – Bay Shore Campus, SUNY Ulster, University of Rochester, Utica College, Vassar College, Wagner College, Wells College, Westchester Community College, Yeshiva University, SUNY Cobleskill, Bard College, SUNY Delhi, and Pratt Institute.

Standout Institutions

When viewed through these different lenses, some institutions stand out for supporting their test takers in passing licensing tests.

Hartwick College

  • The institution is less selective and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution also has more Pell grant recipients (37%) than average (35%) and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution’s average first-attempt pass rate on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 88%, compared with 73% across the state.

Keuka College

  • The institution has more Pell grant recipients (47%) than average (35%) and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution is also moderately selective and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution’s average first-attempt pass rate on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 81%, compared with 73% across the state.

Nazareth College

  • The institution is less selective and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution’s average first-attempt pass rate on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 85%, compared with 73% across the state.

New York University

  • First-attempt pass rates for test takers of color at this institution exceeds the state’s average first-time pass rate.
  • The average first-attempt pass rate for test takers of color at this institution on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 91%, compared with 73% across the state.
  • The first-attempt pass rate for test takers of color at this institution (91%) also exceeds the average pass rate for all test takers at the institution (89%).

State University of New York at Oswego

  • The institution has more Pell grant recipients (42%) than average (35%) and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution’s average first-attempt pass rate on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 90%, compared with 73% across the state.

SUNY Buffalo State College

  • The institution has more Pell grant recipients (54%) than average (35%) and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution’s average first-attempt pass rate on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 74%, compared with 73% across the state.

SUNY Oneonta

  • First-attempt pass rates for test takers of color at this institution exceeds the state’s average first-time pass rate.
  • The average first-attempt pass rate for test takers of color at this institution on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 100%, compared with 73% across the state.
  • The first-attempt pass rate for test takers of color at this institution (100%) also exceeds the average pass rate for all test takers at the institution (92%).

SUNY Potsdam

  • The institution has more Pell grant recipients (50%) than average (35%) and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution is also moderately selective and exceeds the state’s first-attempt average pass rate.
  • The institution’s average pass rate on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 75%, compared with 73% across the state.

Teachers College, Columbia University

  • First-time pass rates for test takers of color at this institution exceeds the state’s average first-time pass rate.
  • The average pass rate for test takers of color at this institution on the Part Two: Mathematics Subtest (222) is 95%, compared with 73% across the state.

Recommendations

Building a path together

State education agencies, teacher prep programs, testing companies, and school districts together, should create or verify alignment between what’s taught in elementary classrooms, what’s expected in teacher prep coursework, and what’s assessed on licensure tests.

The following recommendations build upon this foundation of aligned content.

Teacher prep programs:

  1. Look to coursework, not just test prep strategies, to best prepare candidates in the content they need to teach elementary grades.
  2. Review and act on pass rate data to monitor program effectiveness and to inform improvements.
  3. Use diagnostic testing to identify candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.

States:

  1. Use a valid and reliable elementary education licensure test that separately measures knowledge of language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.
  2. Set the minimum score needed to pass the licensure test at the score that has been recommended by the standard setting process.
  3. Improve access to and use of assessment data.
  4. Make sure that the state’s needs are reflected in agreements made with licensure test publishers.

Testing Companies

  1. Standard operating procedure should be to provide first-attempt and best-attempt pass rate data and data on the number of attempts for all test takers at the institution level to state education agencies and preparation programs.
  2. Strengthen data collection to provide more accurate program-level data.
  3. Work with the education field to explore concerns around bias in testing.

This data is a powerful tool for change. Low pass rates should not be hidden, but rather brought to light; facing these challenges is how we build a stronger, more diverse teacher workforce for our students.

While prep programs did not create the systemic educational inequities that contribute to struggles in passing licensure content exams, they – with support from their institutions, state education agencies, and testing companies – are in a prime position to take action to close these gaps. It is NOT the demographic makeup of the student population, but the commitment of the institution to adequately prepare candidates for licensure exams and more importantly, for the classroom, that makes all the difference. With better data, states and programs can better direct their resources to support candidates in achieving success.

Download the national report for the full set of recommendations

What’s next?

Improvement is possible

Students need teachers who enter the classroom already knowing core content. Licensure tests act as a guardrail to make sure that teachers have essential knowledge from their first day on the job. Data from licensure tests offer a powerful tool to spotlight systemic inequities in content knowledge and to help identify institutions that are successfully preparing candidates for the classroom and those that need extra support.

Download New York data