James V. Shuls

In recent years, the chorus of voices against standardized testing has grown ever louder. Many today believe that there is simply too much testing in public education. Unfortunately, almost all of the attention on testing has been at the student level. While there is room for good productive debate about the role and nature of standardized testing for students, there is also room for debate about the role tests play in shaping the teacher workforce.

Missouri, like all other states, requires teachers to pass a series of examinations before they can become a teacher. These tests act as a barrier to entry. As I have written before, barriers to entry are only effective if they do what they are supposed to do. In this case, the tests should keep out individuals who would be bad teachers. My research has shown that the relationship between performance on licensure exams and performance in the classroom is pretty weak. Despite this fact, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary education sees licensure exams as a key driver to improving the quality of the teacher labor force.

Education is not the only area in which tests are used to screen out candidates. For example, lawyers have to take the Missouri Bar Exam, which has three parts. Compare this to the sheer number of teacher licensure exams for those wanting to work in public schools (see below). Whether you are in bankruptcy law, civil rights law, criminal law, corporate law, family law, or any other field in the law profession, you take one exam—the bar exam. In education, however, we have constructed tests for just about every single thing.

Want to be a high school biology teacher? There is a test for that. Want to teach chemistry? There is a test for that. Want to teach earth science, general science, or physics? There is a test for each of those. Oh yeah, and you will also have to take a test of your disposition, the Missouri Educator Profile; a test of general knowledge, the Missouri General Education Assessment; and you’ll be evaluated in the classroom by the Missouri Performance Assessment.

It is understandable to want to ensure that prospective teachers have basic competencies. We will not change the quality of the labor force, however, unless we change the structure of the profession. We must begin rewarding great teachers and become more diligent on removing or remediating the bad ones. As it is, we’ve simply gone test crazy when it comes to teacher certification.

Tests to Become a Teacher in Missouri

Tests to Become a Lawyer

Missouri Educator Profile

The Missouri Bar Exam

·         Multistate Essay Examination

·         Multistate Performance test

·         Multistate Bar Exam


Missouri General Education Assessment (MoGEA)

·         English Language Arts

·         Writing

·         Mathematics

·         Science

·         Social Studies


Missouri Content Assessments


Early Childhood Education

·         Early Childhood Education


Elementary Education

·         Elementary Education Multi-Content

o   English Language Arts

o   Mathematics

o   Science

o   Social Studies

·         Elementary Mathematics Specialist


Middle School Education

·         Middle School Education: Language Arts

·         Middle School Education: Mathematics

·         Middle School Education: Science

·         Middle School Education: Social Studies


Secondary Education

·         Secondary Education: Agriculture

·         Secondary Education: Biology

·         Secondary Education: Business

·         Secondary Education: Chemistry

·         Secondary Education: Earth Science

·         Secondary Education: English

·         Secondary Education: General Science

·         Secondary Education: Marketing

·         Secondary Education: Mathematics

·         Secondary Education: Physics

·         Secondary Education: Social Science Multi-content

o   United States History

o   World History

o   Economics

o   Geography

o   Political Science

o   Behavioral Science

·         Secondary Education: Speech and Theater

·         Secondary Education: Technology and Engineering

·         Secondary Education: Unified Science - Biology

·         Secondary Education: Unified Science – Chemistry

·         Secondary Education: Unified Science - Earth Science

·         Secondary Education: Unified Science – Physics


K-12 Education

·         Art

·         Family and Consumer Sciences

·         Health

·         Library Media Specialist

·         Music: Instrumental and Vocal

·         Physical Education

·         World Languages: Chinese-Mandarin

·         World Languages: French

·         World Languages: German

·         World Languages: Spanish


Special Education

·         Blind and low vision

·         Deaf and hard of hearing

·         Early childhood special education

·         Mild/Moderate Cross Categorical Special Education

·         Severely Developmentally Disabled

·         Mild/Moderate Middle/Secondary Multi-Content

o   English Language Arts

o   Mathematics

o   Science

o   Social Studies


Student Services

·         Counselor

·         School Psychologist


School and District Leadership

·         Building Level Administrator

·         Superintendent


Professional Knowledge

·         Middle School

·         Secondary



Missouri Performance Assessments

·         Pre-Service Teacher Assessment

·         School Leader Performance Assessment

·         School Counselor Performance Assessment

·         Librarian Performance Assessment



About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls
Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.