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60% must retake Massachusetts teacher test

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More than half of the prospective teachers in Massachusetts who took and failed a basic skills exam will have to retake the test after the state Board of Education has endorsed its original grading standards.

Almost 60 percent of 2,000 would-be teachers flunked the state's new Teachers Test, an exam that tests English and mathematics skills.After the initial results were reported, the Board of Education decided to lower the passing grade, a decision that would have changed the failing scores of 260 test-takers into passing marks.

The board's action outraged acting Gov. Paul Cellucci, who asked the board to return to the original grading standards.

"We want to deliver the unmistakable message of high standards for teachers and students," said Abigail Thernstrom, one of two board members who changed their votes in favor of the original standards.

Before Wednesday's vote, Cellucci argued for reversal of the board's decision to lower the standards.

"No one ever said improving our public schools would be easy," he said. "We want to make sure that when a new teacher goes into the classroom they are competent and capable."

The reversal means that prospective teachers who benefited from the lowered benchmark will have to retake the test, which seemed to board Chairman John Silber to be at "about the eighth-grade level."

Until this spring, Massachusetts was one of only seven states that did not require teachers to pass a test to qualify for certification.