- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2003

The head of a national teacher-college association circulated a copy of a confidential teacher-certification exam, undermining a Bush administration initiative to certify professionals without education degrees as teachers.

Education leaders said David G. Imig, president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, distributed the exam at a March 17 meeting hosted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Palo Alto, Calif.

The exam was being confidentially field-tested for the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, also known simply as the American Board.

Mr. Imig declined to tell The Times how he obtained the exam.

Suzanne M. Wilson, a Carnegie senior scholar and education professor at Michigan State University who attended the meeting, said Mr. Imig circulated the exam to rally criticism.

“It wasn’t good. … The test for [the American Board] had running through its bones the ideology of traditionalists … the framework of direct instruction,” she said.

The breach forced the American Board to scuttle its initial field test being developed under a $5-million U.S. Education Department grant, said Kathleen Madigan, the American Board’s president.

“Should anyone take that test after items had been publicized, they could have a lawsuit. Someone could practice and have unfair advantage,” said Lisa Graham Keegan, president of Education Leaders Council, which formed the American Board with the National Council for Teacher Quality.

“How could we represent ourselves as a certification process that was secure for the states when people could have obtained the test and practiced?”

The American Board also severed ties with ACT Inc. of Iowa City, Iowa, the test’s developer, whose security measures had been breached, Mrs. Madigan said. The group has signed a new contract with test-developer Promissor, a subsidiary of publisher Houghton Mifflin.

The American Board’s attorney insisted that Mr. Imig recall and destroy all test copies he circulated.

In a confidential memo obtained by The Times, Mr. Imig told participants in the Carnegie Foundation meeting: “I would appreciate your destruction of all copies of that material. Prior to its destruction, I would also appreciate your obliteration of the coding data and other information on the front page.”

Mr. Imig declined a request from The Times for a list of meeting participants who received the test. Lee S. Shulman, Carnegie’s president, said Mr. Imig invited the attendees.

“Those who assembled in Palo Alto were those who constitute the established profession — practitioner representatives, preparers, accreditors, certifiers, funders, representatives of policy-makers, those who prepare the tests, and those who study the profession or professions in general, to talk about the profession and what we can do to strengthen it,” Mr. Imig said in an e-mail.

Ken Gullette, director of media relations for ACT, said the testing company investigated the breach but couldn’t determine who or how many people took copies of the test. He said the company offered to replace it.

Education-establishment leaders launched a vigorous campaign against the American Board last fall after the Education Department awarded the group a two-year grant to develop an alternate process to credential college graduates without education degrees to teach.

The American Board was recognized in the federal No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 as an approved provider of teacher certification. Several states have passed laws to adopt the alternate process as an option for new teachers.

Susan Aspey, spokesman for the Education Department, said officials remain confident in the American Board.

“Obviously, there’s concern on our part about the integrity of the test, but this is an issue that’s really between these organizations,” she said. “The American Board has been in touch with the department about this issue and has assured us that there is no risk with regard to federal dollars.”

Kimberly Tulp, American Board spokesman, said the board retains ownership of its test “blueprint,” for which ACT was paid $256,000.

“We will not pay for the item development and field-testing that was compromised, which was just over $1 million,” she said.

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