AP NEWS

Illinois lawmakers to consider new teacher testing methods

May 5, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Two bills are pending in the Illinois General Assembly that would pause or permanently eliminate a basic skills test for new teachers that some officials say has contributed to a statewide shortage of educators

Starting June 30, the Illinois State Board of Education will put the Test of Academic Proficiency on hold as the agency considers alternative solutions to evaluate prospective teachers, The State Journal-Register reported. The current test has a 25% pass rate.

A lobbyist for the state’s Board of Education says the agency has taken an impartial position on the bills.

Sponsor Rep. Sue Scherer said her bill would halt testing until 2025. People of color are at a disadvantage because the basic skills exam doesn’t factor in life experiences or cultural differences, Scherer noted.

In the first quarter of the year, around 12% of African American students and 14% of Hispanic students passed the basic skills test.

“I’ve seen so many good teachers go by the wayside because of these tests that are not really doing what they’re intended to do,” Scherer said.

Jeff Vose, regional school superintendent for Sangamon and Menard counties, said he has seen new teachers put off by the basic skills test.

“That’s the frustrating part of this process,” Vose said. “To watch people ... get discouraged and disappointed because one test on one day is not allowing them to get into a profession that they desire to get into. One test eliminates their hopes and dreams of becoming a teacher.”

Eliminating the “barrier” of the basic skills test could bring in more educators to fill these positions, according to Vose.

James Rosborg, a retired Belleville superintendent and retired director of the master’s in education program at McKendree University, said he does not agree with doing away with the basic skills test altogether, though he called the existing exam “terrible.”

Scherer noted removing the skills test won’t lower teaching standards.

″(The best teacher) is the one who knew the content and cared about you,” she said. “How do you give a test to figure that out?”

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com