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Four members of the task force disagreed with their colleagues, issuing a separate report that stated that repealing the test would be lowering expectations for Minnesota teachers.
“Nobody else, no other profession I can think of, would you get a license without having to demonstrate and verify they know what they’re doing,” said Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, one of those dissenters.
A step backward?
The debate over the basic-skills exam for teachers comes at a time when both the states and the U.S. Department of Education have raised questions about the adequacy of teacher preparation colleges.
Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, told the Star Tribune last year that most states are increasing requirements for teacher candidates, not relaxing them. She called efforts to do away with Minnesota’s basic-skills exam “a step backward.”
It seems likely that the teacher exam will survive this legislative session, because most legislators don’t like the idea of scrapping it without more debate on a replacement measure. Efforts to dump the test last year failed, too.
Rep. Barb Yarusso, DFL-Shoreview, is the sponsor of a proposal that calls for keeping the test but allowing test-takers to also use the ACT or SAT to demonstrate proficiency.
Yarusso, who tutors college students, said she often struggles to find study materials for the licensure exam. The college readiness exams, however, “translate well and are workable because they’re so widely used,” she said.
There also appears to be some support among legislators to throw a lifeline to teachers whose first language isn’t English and can’t pass the test.
“Really, this has to do with future hiring,” Alexander said. “When we bring a person in, we can’t guarantee them a job past next year even if they meet all of our standards and do a good job in the classroom.”
Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469