Members of the Washington school board yesterday asked Supt. Vincent E. Reed to prepare a plan to require all new teachers to pass a written examination before they can be hired by the school system.
For the past eight years, the schools have based their hiring entirely on the college records of applicants and an interview - a system that school board members said had led to the hiring of many teachers who lacked basic skills.
The major source of new teachers for Washington is D.C. Teachers College, where four ftudents are scheduled to graduate today even though they failed to required courses in mathematics. Another large group of new personnel comes from Federal City College.
The two public colleges, both of which have open-adminssions policies and low tuition, are being merged this fall with Washington Technical Institute to form a new University of the District of Columbia.
"The credibility of the University of the District of Columbia is quite low," said William Treanor, chairman of the school board's rules committee, which yesterday asked Reed to draw up a plan for giving teacher examinations.
"We're in a position now to be very fussy about who we have as teachers (because of a nationwide teacher surplus), and we want really stringent examinations.
"We're not running a welfare program (for teacher college graduates)," Treanor asserted. "We're running an educational institution."
Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate D.C. Appropriations Subcommittee, yesterday criticized the three public colleges for having low academic standards. Leahy suggested that some of the $50 million now spent annually on them could be better used for scholarships to send city residents to private universities.
"Are we creating a new university in Washington soley to say that we have a university here?" Leahy asked at a hearing. "Or are we creating an institution of qualify? It concerns me that we are investing so much in a new university rather than paying tuitions grants to send (D.C. residents) to other colleges. The money can be justified only if we create the university with standards." Leahy cited news reports about the Teachers College graduates who failed their math courses as well as an earlier report that a high proportion of nursing graduates from Federal City and Washington Tech failed their licensing exams.
"If they continue to have things like this," Leahy said, "I seriously question if wer are just wasting our money."
Ronald H. Brown, chairman of the university trustees, said at the hearing that the city is trying to create "a university of excellence."
In an interview later, Brown said, "I don't think you can assume that (he) University of D.C. has low standards and I don't see anything in the (news reports) to indicate that . . . I don't think that because of something like that, you should spend money on private colleges rather than on your public lant grant institutions."
The decision to waive the required math courses for the four DCTC students who failed them was made last week by Teachers College President Wendell P. Russell, who also serves as president of Federal City College.
Russell was called by a reporter several times yesterday, but did not return the phone calls.
Until 1969, the D.C. School Board required all new teachers applying for permanent certification to take the National Teacher Examination, which was used widely around the country. The test was attacked as being discriminatory against blacks because a much higher proportion of blacks failed it than whites.
Yesterday Treanor said, "I'm willing to leave it up to the superintendent what test to use. But we want a really stringent examination. We can't depend on college credits."
Under the ucrrent licensing system in Washington, which is also used in many states throughout the country, applicants must show they passed a specific list of required courses at an accredited college with a grade of C or better.
Solomon Kenderick, head of the D.C. Board of Teacher Examiners, said the four women who failed their math courses at D.C. Teachers College probably could not be hired anyway because the math courses are necessary for most categories of teachers.
However, Carol Schwartz, school board vice president, said that many teachers who have passed their required courses have serious academic deficiencies.
"The quality of teachers has been a tremendous problem," Mrs. Schwartz said, "and we need a written test to make sure (that quality is achieved).