Letter: Story on teacher skills test was confusing
Sadly, reading “House panel considers plan to end teacher skills test” in the Feb. 21 Bemidji Pioneer left me confused instead of enlightened. Either the writer failed to demonstrate competency in collecting answers to six basic questions at the heart of every news story: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How, or the House panel needs more answers before taking action. Let’s give this article the scratch and sniff test.
Who, What, When, Where: “Members of the Minnesota House Education Policy Committee got their first look at a task force recommendation to eliminate a college-level skills test that teachers must pass before getting a license. This basic skills test is in reading, writing and math.”
To get a license, prospective teachers must take the skills test, prove mastery in the subjects they teach and pass a classroom performance exam. Instead of a test, state colleges and universities should ensure graduates are ready … and teachers educated elsewhere should have “an alternative way” of proving qualifications.
Four committee members said it would be abandoning Minnesota’s history of high standards for teachers … making it easier to become a teacher.
Task force co-chairman Christopher Smith says it “is the repeal of a test, but not of accountability. … (Accountability) is just going to look different … and provide an alternative path to a teaching license … for teachers educated in other states or other countries.”
Readers who can still feel their toes may be asking:
•When did the state begin testing?
•What purpose did it serve initially?
•What percentage of the total candidates passed/failed?
•Who initiated the test removal?
•How will “accountability” be measured?
•How will an “alternative path” prove proficiency in basic skills?
•Why eliminate? Following testimony from candidates who have failed the test, task force members “were convinced it is too flawed to be fixed.” (Very scientific.) Supporters “cite evidence it is culturally biased and hindering efforts to bring more diversity to Minnesota’s teaching force.”
•How is a Minnesota basic reading, writing and math test culturally biased? Are candidates asked to spell and define lutefisk? Or determine the ratio of flour to potatoes in lefse? (Examples?)
Rep. Carlos Mariani said “he wished the task force had offered more suggestions on what those alternative pathways would look like.” Gee, I do too. Maybe a journalist should ask someone before legislation is sponsored to eliminate the test.