ERIC Number: ED420714
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1998-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Political Symbolism, Organizational Entrenchment and the Short History of the California Basic Educational Skills Test.
Kelemen, Matthew; Koski, William S.
California, in response to pessimism about the efficacy of public education, adopted the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), a three-part test of reading, writing, and mathematics required of teacher applicants. This paper takes a critical look at the genesis, passage, implementation, and consequences of the CBEST legislation. In particular, it analyzes the history of the CBEST to determine the problem or problems it was designed to address, and whether it actually solves such problems. The CBEST was intended to address four problems: (1) the poor performance of California's students; (2) the perception that some teachers were not competent in the basic skills; (3) the relatively low status of the teaching profession; and (4) the alleged poor quality of teacher preparation programs. The era of the CBEST opened officially in December 1982, when 4,952 credential candidates sat for the exam. Since then about three-quarters of candidates pass on the first attempt, but passing rates for minority candidates are lower. While there has been real growth in student achievement in California, there is no evidence that the CBEST has contributed to these gains. The CBEST tests basic skills, but whether these translate into effective teaching is another question that has not been studied. There are suggestions that the CBEST helps enhance teacher professionalism, as its acceptance by the California Teachers Association indicates. Whether the CBEST improves teacher training is also not clear, but it is evident that the test serves to reduce the diversity of the teaching force. In large part, the story of the CBEST is the story of political symbolism. How it became a symbol of the effort for educational improvement, and how that symbol became entrenched in the educational organization in California is outlined. The CBEST has become institutionalized by the state's universities and colleges as an aspect of teacher training and a structure bound to the operation of teacher training institutions. Three appendixes present sample questions, the description of a borderline candidate, and selected CBEST results. (Contains 55 references.) (SLD)
Descriptors: Educational Change, Educational History, Elementary Secondary Education, Higher Education, Licensing Examinations (Professions), Minimum Competency Testing, Organizational Objectives, Political Influences, Preservice Teachers, State Legislation, State Programs, Symbolism, Teacher Certification, Teacher Education, Teacher Qualifications, Test Use, Testing Programs
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California
Identifiers - Assessments and Surveys: California Basic Educational Skills Test