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ETS, NEA Study Identifies Pathways to Increasing Teacher Diversity

Minority students make up 40% of classrooms, minority teachers 16%

Princeton, N.J. - March 23, 2011 -

New, collaborative research recently completed and published by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the National Education Association (NEA) provides insights into how to close teacher diversity gap. Identifying potential intervention opportunities and focusing attention on the need for intensive candidate support, the report outlines what teacher preparation programs can do to help minority teacher candidates struggling to pass their licensure exams.

Toward Increasing Teacher Diversity: Targeting Support and Intervention for Teacher Licensure Candidates” focuses on the performance gap between White and minority teacher candidates, and takes an in-depth look at candidate performance in various content areas as part of  The Praxis Series assessments. In addition to assessing candidate performance in the areas of academic skills, content areas, and pedagogy, researchers conducted site visits to six universities to learn more about the challenges they face and strategies they’ve implemented to help minority candidates.

“Our analysis found some significant differences in performance between White and minority test takers on licensure tests, but the differences were not the same across the board,” said report author and ETS Vice President and COO for Teacher Licensure and Certification Linda Tyler. “We also found some important performance patterns in a number of sub-areas on high-volume tests like elementary content knowledge and the pedagogy tests. The findings offer information on areas where the greatest opportunities for improvement lie.” 

Analyzing the records of over 300,000 teacher candidates from ETS’s Praxis database, the report looks at where performance gaps lie, test  taker characteristics that most highly correlate with performance, intervention opportunities and the possible implications of raising or lowering state cut scores in light of the performance gaps.

“The evidence is clear that all students benefit from a more diverse teacher workforce,” said NEA Executive Director John Wilson, “with benefits that are both social and academic. This
report yields important information and insights that can help improve efforts to educate, prepare, recruit and retain highly qualified minority candidates in the classroom.”

Key research findings from the ETS/NEA study include:

  • Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American first-time test takers have significantly lower passing rates than White first-time test takers on almost all the tests examined for this study, although the gaps vary widely across titles and racial/ethnic groups.
  • Of all the test taker information gathered from Praxis candidates, undergraduate grade point average and candidate education level at the time of testing appear to offer the most actionable information for teacher preparation programs. 
  • All racial/ethnic groups performed best on average in Language Arts on the Elementary Education Content Knowledge test; the three other areas covered by the test (Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science) offered more room for improvement.
  • A common perception that minority test takers perform uniformly worse on constructed-response items (versus multiple-choice) is not supported in the analysis.

NEA and ETS are committed to helping ensure that candidates of color are supported and have access to intervention tools and resources that will enable them to close score gaps. Additionally, they encourage their industry colleagues and partners to join them in research, data-sharing, gathering additional data, and developing intervention strategies.

The complete research results are available in this free technical research report available for download at

About ETS
At nonprofit ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.

About NEA
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.


CONTACT: Jason Baran, ETS (609) 683-2428,
                       Michelle Hudgins, NEA (202) 822-7823,