Illiterate Would-Be Teachers

Published September 1, 1998

“This method of observation should not be aloud under any cercumstances,” wrote one candidate, according to Massachusetts Board of Education chairman John Silber, writing about the new state teacher tests in a New York Times op-ed piece. According to Silber, who is Chancellor of Boston University, the test is “about the eighth-grade level” and measures literacy, communication skills, and knowledge of subject matter.

In one part of the test, candidates were required to “take dictation”–to write a short paragraph from the Federalist Papers as it was read aloud slowly three times. Questioning how educated college graduates could fail to copy accurately what they had heard, Silber reported that scores of candidates produced fragmented sentences and curious new spellings like “improbally,” “corupt,” “integraty,” “bodyes,” “relif,” and “bouth” (for “both”).

“It’s simply immoral for schools to graduate students who are not on average more qualified than the students they will be teaching,” said Silber, calling for education schools either to raise their standards or shut their doors. After all, he noted, “America became a literate society before there were any schools of education.”