From: Jo Schultz
As a recent college graduate majoring in special education, I read the articles by Sarah Squires and Fran Edstrom with much interest. I was offended by the slant Ms. Edstrom took by implying that without formal teacher testing, students will be taught by incompetent and untrained teachers. The teachers in our schools today are passionate about being teachers and wanting to teach, as well as being prepared to face the challenges that are placed before them every day.
In the article, Ms. Squires states that in the past, prospective teachers could receive a one-year temporary license if they were unable to pass the exam. She goes on further to explain that prospective teachers won’t even have to attempt the tests to obtain a temporary license. This is not accurate. In looking at the Minnesota Department of Education website, it clearly states that this temporary license is only issued if the teacher meets specific requirements. Based on the individual, these requirements can include if all other state tests have been passed or if they have completed a Minnesota licensure program.
Before I could begin formal classes specifically for teaching, I was required to pass a test to gain entry into the teacher education program. But in order to do that, it was also necessary for me to achieve a certain letter grade in speech, math, and English classes. Along with formal in-class lecture and training, I spent one and one-half semesters in area schools gaining hands-on experience before I student taught. While student teaching, I was required to complete the Teacher Performance Assessment (TPA) in which I wrote lesson plans and answered several questions regarding instruction, planning, and assessment for my students. I also videotaped myself teaching a lesson, and after viewing it, I wrote my assessment of the lesson, and what I could change to improve myself as a teacher.
It should go without saying that the guidance my professors, cooperating teachers, and advisors gave me along the way helped my preparation to teach my own classroom. The unselfish giving of their time, resources, and information is a reflection of my teaching abilities and skills more than a test score can ever reflect.
Both articles fail to recognize that there are other tests that prospective teachers must take and pass in order to apply for a teaching license. Along with the basic skills tests (which consists of reading, writing, and math), I am taking a total of seven state administered tests for teaching that include Content and Pedagogy. I have absolutely no problem taking tests for my license, but I do take issue if the tests are irrelevant. For example, the math portion of the basic skills test includes questions pertaining to trigonometry and geometry; I personally was never taught some of these concepts in previous math classes. I do not believe these subjects are “basic” math.
I am glad to see that the Department of Education is recognizing that changes need to be made to the basic skills tests. By allowing prospective teachers to teach temporarily without formally passing the basic skills, is allowing prospective teachers to get into the classroom sooner to do what they are passionate about: teaching students! Despite what Ms. Edstrom is leading readers to believe, the (new) teachers that this development affects does not mean that they are unprepared or uneducated to teach. Additionally, it does not mean that teachers do not have to ever pass state tests.