angle-up angle-right angle-down angle-left close user menu open menu closed search globe bars phone store

Adopt the ETS® NOTE Program and Set a Passing Score

ETS is committed to keeping the ETS® NOTE program up to date and aligned with professionally accepted standards. Selecting appropriate assessments and associated required passing scores are very important focal points in any assessment and licensing process. It is imperative that assessment selections and passing scores be set by following a rigorous process that reflects the professional judgment of qualified professionals.

While ETS develops and delivers a range of assessments that are required for teacher licensure, ETS does not select the assessments required for each certification or license area. Each state education agency determines what needs to be tested and which assessments are best to use to test that material.

Similarly, ETS does not set the passing scores for those assessments; each state education agency sets the operational passing score. Choosing a passing score on a licensing test is an important policy decision. Various stakeholders, including educators, legislators, school board members, etc., should be consulted during the decision-making process. The complex factors that shape passing score decisions can be grouped into two broad categories:

  • the judgments of qualified experts regarding the level of knowledge and skills important for beginning teachers to demonstrate
  • the informed projections about the makeup of the resulting teaching force if a particular passing score is established

The sections that follow briefly discuss the standard-setting process.

Selecting Assessments for Teacher Licensure

Qualified experts must make important choices regarding what needs to be tested and what tests to use. There are a number of variables that any state agency authorized to select a teacher licensure test series should consider.


The planning phase of a passing score study is crucial if the resulting passing score is to be acceptable and defensible. It is necessary to have justifiable and well-documented rationale for each of the decisions made in the planning stage of the process used to set passing scores.

The Passing Score Study

Each authorized licensing agency using the NOTE program or related assessment with a passing score must conduct a passing-score study (a standard-setting study). Whenever feasible, it is prudent to use a method of implementing a passing-score study methodology that has been discussed in the professional literature. The agency may choose to:

  • use ETS’s services to conduct the study
  • conduct its own study
  • use the services of another organization

Regardless of the method used or who conducts the study, the study and its outcomes must be documented.

Setting the Passing Score

Once the data has been collected from the panelists, decision makers will set the operational passing score, considering important collateral information such as:

  • test score distributions
  • supply and demand surveys
  • measurement error
  • cost-benefit analyses
  • diversity in the teaching force

Decision makers should also consider the relative harm caused by the possibility of passing an unqualified candidate and the possibility of failing a qualified candidate.

Evaluating the Effects of Applying the Passing Score

Once a passing score is established, licensing agencies should continue to conduct structured, periodic reviews of their passing score to assure that teacher candidates meeting the passing score demonstrate acceptable levels of knowledge, skill and ability. On occasion, licensing agencies may feel that an adjustment is appropriate to either the selection of tests or the passing score requirement. Such agencies should evaluate the effects prior to applying a new passing score.

After the Passing Score is Selected

Once the assessments and associated passing score has been selected, the licensing agencies file adoption paperwork with ETS. Once received and processed, the adopted assessment and scores are posted to the NOTE website and entered into the operational scoring system for implementation.