So many aspiring educators flunked Massachusetts' first basic reading-and-writing test for teachers that officials graded them on a curve, and now some are wondering whether dumb bureaucrats are promoting dumb teachers.

The Board of Education voted this week to adjust the passing grade to reduce the number of those who failed from 56 percent to 44 percent - prompting outrage from acting Gov. Paul Cellucci and others.House Speaker Thomas Finneran said he has seen the tests, which were not released, and was appalled to see candidates couldn't "define a noun or a verb or what democracy means or the meaning of the word `imminent.' "

He called the people who failed and those who gave them degrees "idiots."

Cellucci predicted Friday that the decision to change the passing number would be reversed at the board's meeting next week and the roughly 260 people who benefited would be made to retake the test.

Cellucci also called for testing of all current teachers out of concern that there are "perhaps thousands of teachers who are in the classroom today who are not meeting the standards."

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

The Department of Education released a sample of the exam, which Board of Education Chairman John Silber said seemed to be at about an eighth-grade level.

The samples showed some test-takers, when trying to rewrite sentences, misspelled words a 9-year-old could spell - even though the words were right in front of them. Some wrote at a fifth- or sixth-grade level. Many wrote sentences lacking both nouns and verbs.