Teacher Licensure Task Force

Listening Session Notes – Group 4

Initial Teacher Licensure Task Force

October 17, 2013

Task Force members at the table included: Rose Hermodson, Steve Hornstein, and Dan DeBruyn.

Participants: 14 participants most from an immersion charter school

Notes provided by: Dan DeBruyn

Question: What is your issue of most concern about requirements for teacher licensure and specifically as it relates to the testing requirements?

• Person 1 comments:

o The test tests more than just basic skills;

o Reading and writing was is extremely difficult;

o Arrived 5 minutes late and was told that he could not take any of the tests and was required to pay for it again. He asked to take the second test since he was late for the first one and was denied;

o No feedback is provided to let the candidate know what they need to improve other than a mark next to the question they got wrong; and

o If a candidate wants more information about what they can do to improve, they have to pay more money for it.

• Person 2 comments:

o Her husband studied for 50 hours for the math test. These are not people who are lazy or not trying. He purchased a lot of the materials to study;

o She is concerned that people have to pay for any real useful feedback; and

o He does not teach in English at all, but is forced to take all of the tests in English (teaches all in Spanish).

• Person 3 comments:

o Teaching for 10 years;

o 1st license under Praxis. Second license under MTLE. Found MTLE very difficult, but passed;

o Feels that she only passed the math portion because she was teaching 6th grade math at the time. Commented that some of the questions were way beyond that level and she was not even able to make an educated guess;

o She noted that the terminology on the language test was at a high level (similar to terms she found in her college linguistic classes); and

o The test is making it difficult to secure and maintain language teachers (in an immersion program) that also come with the cultural and language experience.

• Person 4 comments:

o 14 years of teaching (including 7 in immersion);

o Taught in Germany and other states;

o Had to take Praxis and then MTLE when she returned to MN;

o Believes the test does not measure what they are teaching or fill the needs of unique teaching programs in MN (such as immersion);

o She appreciates MN’s high standards; and

o She is wondering how many people are actually failing the test (percentage) and for what reasons;

• Person 5 comments:

o Teaches 2nd grade in an immersion program;

o One staff member has taken it 5 times;

o She has concerns about the cultural bias in the test prompts. Example, “Support a position for how extracurricular activities support increased academic achievement”;

o They work as a team in teaching and support one another; and

o We need to find ways of getting people help with the test without asking them to pay more. It doesn’t seem fair that they have to pay more for useful feedback.

• Person 6 comments:

o Licensed and taught in Chili and Bolgaria. No tests required;

o Feels he was well prepared to teach due to his courses in college;

o Said research indicates test does not show what a teacher can do – whether they are a good teacher in the classroom;

o Took him 11 times to pass test in California;

o In Wisconsin he did not have to pass a test. He only had to pass several classes to meet their requirements;

o In MN, he has taken the tests 6 times and still has not passed the reading and math portions;

o He feels that it is more than basic skills required; and

o He expressed that education has become a big business to make money.

• Person 7 comments:

o Teaching for 11 years;

o Graduated from St. Scholastica with his masters degree;

o Has had to be moved from district to district because his provisional license runs out;

o Passed pedagogy and elementary ed. Portions. Only needs to pass reading and writing;

o Test is all in English – not in Spanish or other languages;

o When fail, have to wait 60 days to retake; and

o No feedback is provided.

• Person 8 comments:

o From Columbia where she taught 9 years;

o Difficulty passing math;

o She teaches 1st grade and all in Spanish;

o Tests are not in Spanish and she does not have enough time to take them;

o In masters program at Hamline where she is getting all “A’s”. Only three classes from receiving her master’s degree;

o Feels tests are very culturally biased which makes it hard to understand the context;

o Feels the testing environment is hostile – e.g., can’t where long sleeves, fingerprint

o Without a license (having passed the tests) it makes it extremely difficult for her to get her visa renewed

Summary:

• The basic skills tested are beyond basic skills;

• The test does not measure whether the person will be a good teacher in the classroom;

• There are a number of concerns with the testing process:

o There is no flexibility at the testing site for late arrivals and the testing environment is intimidating;

o No feedback is given to the candidate to help them improve unless they pay extra; and

o Intimidating testing environment (no flexibility);

• People are studying and trying hard;

• Many of them have been teaching for a number of years and have master’s degrees;

• There appears to be cultural bias in the tests and the terminology is beyond a basic skill level;

• Concerns with the test are making it extremely difficult to attract and maintain teachers for immersion programs;

• People feel well prepared to teach based on their college courses and student teaching success without having to take an additional test to get a license;

• There is a general sense that education testing has become a big business and is all about making money versus what is best for students and teachers;

• There are other implications to the test beyond just passing (e.g., difficulty in renewing visas); and

• Tests are not given in other languages;

Question: What suggestions do you have for making the process work better?

• Eliminate the test would be first recommendation;

• If not possible, perhaps consider overall GPA in college or on specific courses that pertain to the test as an alternative;

• Suggested that the state should trust that colleges are doing their job of training teachers

• Possibly provide test in native languages;

• Keep pedagogy and replace basic skills portion;

• General consensus that teachers in MN need to have a firm understand and use of English. However, basic skills test should be only one option to show understanding;

• Consider past experience in the classroom (whether that be out of state or country);

• If required to take courses in place of test, trust colleges to determine if teachers are capable;

• There are already a number of options – teachers currently have to do all of them (e.g., test before college, pass courses in college, pass student teaching, pass MTLE);

• Some colleges won’t accept student teaching experiences in a immersion program where the teacher does not teach in English;

• Consider consistent standards in colleges for methods classes (particularly in elementary education). Perhaps allow them to take these and achieve a passing score if failed test once;

• Allow teachers to document evidence of skills in other ways as another option;

• MN is the hardest state to get a license in terms of transferring credits from colleges, etc.;

• Perhaps trust principals to monitor and verify skills;

• Portfolio could be an option, but should be considered a permanent option if being used – not temporary;

• We allow students in the classroom to have multiple ways of assessment – why don’t we do the same for teachers?;

• There was a general consensus that high standards are important;

• Perhaps address assessment at the university level to ensure quality across the board and then trust them to uphold the standards. Universities already go through a rigorous accreditation process to be able to offer the courses/programs;

• MN should seriously consider accepting licenses from other states/countries – possibly with verified experience and either passing the test or showing understanding of teaching in another way.

• Lowering the set score could be another option;

• There needs to be better feedback from the test in order to allow the test taker to learn from their mistakes – without charging more money to get it;

• Consider passing an English test for non-native speakers; and

• Consider a specialty license for immersion programs and/or other specialty programs given their unique teaching program.

Summary:

• Most prefer that the test either be eliminated or teachers be given alternative forms of assessment;

• If test remains, consider:

o Providing useful feedback when failing the test without having to pay additional money;

o Providing the tests in other languages; and

o Lowering the set score.

• If alternatives are provided, consider:

o Working with colleges/universities to provide consistent standards in coursework and then trusting them to implement and determine if teachers are capable and should therefore be licensed;

o Using GPA in specific courses as another alternative to testing;

o Giving credit for teaching experience;

o Providing a specialty license for immersion (or other specialty areas) that would allow other options for showing understanding;

o Accepting licenses from other states/countries (with verification of experience or possibly additional coursework); and

o Allowing principals to verify teachers experience or provide assessment after first year that would lead to licensure.