Last year, Minnesota passed a law intended to improve the quality of teachers and hold them to a higher standard. The law requires potential teachers to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam before they get a teacher’s license. The problem is the test is so tough some of the brightest and best potential teachers cannot pass this test.
The current test does not accurately assess competent teachers. Because of this, some well-qualified teachers are in danger of losing their licenses. The current test has produced a disparity of results and doesn’t account for individuals with learning disabilities.
This is a big problem. Some teachers have a level of experience and skill that shows in the learning and the commitment of their students – but this test can disqualify wonderful teachers, even if they do great work. There is more to a teacher than the ability to score high in content areas that they won’t probably ever use in the classroom. The test doesn’t reward good teachers; it rewards those who take tests well.
To address this problem, there is a bill moving through the legislature to modify teacher licensure requirements. The bill will allow teachers unable to pass the test to be provided two, temporary one-year teaching licenses over three years. A task force will be created to look into the problem of quality teachers not being able to pass the test and create a solution going forward.
As the former Chair of the Senate Education Committee, I think we should go even further and eliminate this test. It is difficult enough to find good people willing to become teachers, let alone put unnecessary obstacles in their way which could discourage more students from entering into the profession.
In Minnesota, becoming a teacher is no easy task. In addition to the basic-skills test, teachers need to pass two MTLE tests, the content and pedagogy tests, which we are not proposing to eliminate. They need to be admitted to a degree program, complete the coursework, student-teach, interview and get hired, participate in peer reviews and take continuing education classes — all of which are more pertinent to their ability to teach than a basic-skills test.
We can do better. The compromise bill moving through the legislature is the first step in preventing current teachers from losing their jobs right now while the state looks at the test and determines the best course for Minnesota teachers and students.