Montana State University

MSU education students outscore peers on national exam

August 31, 2012 -- MSU News Service

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Montana State University education students have outscored their peers on 14 of 15 national exams that they are required to take before becoming teachers.

Students in MSU's teacher education program are required to take a test called Praxis II in order to qualify for a teaching license in one of 15 different areas. MSU students took a total of 276 Praxis II exams in 15 areas in 2010-2011, the latest testing year for which scores were reported. MSU students' average scores were higher than the national average scores on 14 out of 15 tests.

Their high marks underscore the strength of the education they receive, according to Jayne Downey, head of the MSU Department of Education.

"These scores are a very strong indicator of the quality of teacher education at MSU and the quality of education that these students are getting across all the different content areas," Downey said. "Content comes from four different colleges at our university, so this is really a positive reflection on MSU as a whole."

Praxis tests measure teacher candidates' knowledge and skills and are part of the certification process required by many states and professional licensing organizations. Praxis II exams are divided into different content areas ranging from art to biology to government to math. Those exams measure subject-specific knowledge, as well as general and subject-specific teaching skills.

Elementary education majors were the largest group of MSU students taking the exam. The average score for 83 elementary education students from MSU was 7 percent higher than the average score of other students in the U.S. And, 12 MSU students took an exam that measures content knowledge in music. The average of those students' scores was 10 percent higher than the U.S. average.

In one exam focused on general science content knowledge, one MSU student received a perfect score -- one of only 72 students nationwide to earn the distinction. Collectively, the 17 MSU students who took the exam in that area outscored the U.S. average by 9.8 percent.

In chemistry, the average of 10 MSU students' scores was slightly below the national average.

"Our chemistry students did well, but these scores let us know that we have room to improve, and we will continue our efforts to help them do even better," Downey said.

Downey said she is proud of the MSU students' quality of work.

"If we think about what these scores mean, what this is showing us is the best and the brightest are going into teaching, and that's really good for the state of Montana," Downey said.

Approximately 1,100 undergraduate students are enrolled in the MSU Teacher Education Program. The program is accredited by the Montana Office of Public Instruction as well as the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. The MSU Department of Education also offers graduate programs in adult and higher education, curriculum and instruction, and educational leadership, as well as Troops to Teachers and Northern Plains Transition to Teaching for professionals in other careers who wish to move into teaching.

Contact: Jayne Downey, (406) 994-7426 or jdowney@montana.edu