Teacher Licensure Task Force

Listening Session Notes – Group 1

Initial Teacher Licensure Task Force

October 17, 2013

John Bellingham, Scot Hovan, Robert Klindworth – task force members

Attendees:

• Director of a Spanish Language Academy

o MTLE has become very difficult

• Former Teacher at German Immersion School

o From Germany, struggled with getting information for BST

• Graduate Student from Hamline

• Kindergarten Immersion Teacher

• Spanish immersion teacher

o Taken MTLE 5 times

• Interim Dean – Metro State

• Staff member for state senator

• St. Paul cultural specialist in immersion program

What do you feel are the important elements for being an effective teacher?

• Knowledge of the subject, but even more important is the teacher that connected with them.

• IB World School; through inquiry, a portion of the action is up to the students. They want to do something about it. It doesn’t matter what we teach them, because things change so quickly. We have to teach them how to learn. Where do they want to go with the knowledge they have so they can engage in meaningful development of the whole person. Teachers need to inspire kids to want to know more, do something about it. Content evolves.

• Inspired by a teacher who recognized that students have different strategies. The teacher helped me realize to take account what students already have in their minds. The effective teacher understood how a kindergartener thinks, helped the students empower themselves.

• Schools are diverse. Effective teachers need to differentiate, because we are in culturally diverse classrooms. Effective teachers learn about where the students are, go there, and then teach them. Teachers need to be aware of how to teach in those settings.

• We talk about relationships, connectedness. How do we uncover the potential in our students that may not see themselves? Teachers have to see the possibilities. Our urban students often feel hopeless, so we have to help uncover that potential.

• No comment – others have spoken the words for me.

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

• I have taken the test 5 times, as ELL, I have to take the test at one time. The classroom is freezing, and I cannot bring a jacket. I sit there for 6 hours. I have taken reading, writing, and math. Math has been my lowest grade. There is no feedback, only points. I have asked for the test to be reviewed, but they say no. Since I asked for extra time, I gave up my rights for a re-check. I remember the tests – they are the same. I have studied, hired tutors, done everything online. I pass the practice tests. But, I go in there, and I don’t know what happens. It is amazing. I don’t know if I can take the tests on different days, but I do not think it would make a difference. We are asked to teach students in different ways, but we don’t get that as teachers. I was trained in Mexico, and I have taught for years. I have many teachers, and they have not passed the tests either. I have studied for 5 hours a day over the summer, and I do not get feedback. I went to Metro State, and taken the TOEFL and passed with flying colors.

• She was a teacher candidate, and we would find if students had problems. Their grades would show it. What I am getting is that it is demoralizing, because they feel like they maybe shouldn’t be teachers. We have 26% students of color, but 3% teachers of color. We are losing them because of the testing culture.

• Our school is small; we are greatly, greatly affected by this. If our teachers were not doing a good job, we would not have just won a blue ribbon. Half of our teachers are being affected by this. They have degrees from other countries that are longer than a 4 year program, or they have been licensed in other states. They are very well qualified. We have 8 teachers at this listening session, and not all are Spanish teacher, but they are here because they realize this is important. We want to give the Minnesota kids so much Spanish that they can move anywhere else and be fully functional. What does a test matter? It is disheartening to see the teachers come back from the test. Paraphrase: This test is the single stumbling block that is having a spiraling down effect on morale. Our teachers get degrees from local colleges, and they are successful there. Our parents have a level of involvement that is remarkable, and yet the licensure is in the way.

• After a head trauma, I took 20 hours of math. I have never been good at math. I am an ESL grad student, but I know that I would have to have a tutor, it would take away from my training as an ESL teacher. This is the hurdle that is going to keep me from getting licensed.

• I have been teaching in the US for four years. I understand that teachers need to understand that someone has to measure teachers. Being a teacher is not an easy job. Teaching is an art. How can an exam measure art? There is no recipe. Teachers bring work home, and it is something that we do with passion and put a lot of effort. The test makes me doubt myself. I just cannot pass the exam. I passed the reading and the writing, but not the math.

• I also am a Waldorf teacher, and I am glad to hear people talk about teaching as an art. I took all three tests on one day, and I didn’t pass any them because I did not finish. As an ELL, I was surprised that I could take them on different days. I haven’t done math in 40 years. I was opposed to paying for something online that only appears for 4 weeks and then disappears. I passed it the second time, but this is not at all testing whether I am an effective teacher with children. Even with the reading test, I didn’t have time to read the text. I started with the questions and tried to find the answers in the text. Questions were so hairsplitting. I had to take a personal day from school. This demoralizing state that I was put in, and no one could guide me. My hardest was writing, and because I was a perfectionist, I could not finish with the extended time. Taking the photo and checking you in was part of my extra time; the computer just shut off. Scheduling with an accommodation requires me to call in, wait for a half hour…

• I have been around public schools for 15 years. I graduated from college in 1998. I taught on a Native American reservation and did not have to take the tests, but I presented a portfolio to the school board in Montana. When I arrived in Minnesota, I took the PPST but didn’t pass. I received a provisional license, and I was let go after 2 years. I was brought back, because they couldn’t find any teachers, so I got another two years. The district hired a tutor to help me, but even with the tutor, it didn’t make any difference. They let me go. When there were no teachers, they brought me back. I am not teaching, but I help with curriculum for the immersion program. With budget cuts, my salary was cut. I quit, but I was hired by another school because of my expertise. I took the test 3 times but did not pass. The test doesn’t measure what I am doing. I am able to bring my culture and apply it to the public schools. I do not have test anxiety, but I see things differently.

What suggestions do you have for making the process better?

• Why are we being tested? We did student teaching, we graduated here…We are not licensed, so we get three observations each year. Without the license, though, I cannot stay. What is that test telling you? It doesn’t make me a better teacher? I have proved something, so I don’t understand what the point of that test is.

o Paraphrase: When a candidate comes out of a higher education institution, that is good enough. Maybe a performance based assessment would be better.

• My family says “you’re still in school?” If a teacher has a masters degree or a master’s degree, that has been approved, can’t that be enough.

o Paraphrase: Obtaining a master’s degree (even from another state) should be enough to get a license.

• You had asked for feedback, but only received rigidity. There was no feedback, no response. The impersonal nature of the Pearson experience. Fingerprinted 3 ties, photographed. Before that, six weeks of working with them on the phone. In my case, I would petition how to NOT take the mast test.

• Concern about treatment from Pearson after 4 years. We are hearing many stories not just about hoops, but actually substantial blockage.

o It seems the test process is broken.

• We want to have all kinds of teachers teach our kids. Not just teachers of color, but teachers with learning disabilities, a math teacher with dyslexia, for instance.

o It is hard for me to say get rid of everything, but that is what I would say.

o I don’t believe that testing will show competency

• If a teacher can make it through a teacher education program, they should be eligible for licensure.

o AGREEMENT (by nodding) from all teachers present

• Teacher preparation is more rigorous now. With schools requiring the edTPA, that gives a very good view of whether a teacher is prepared.

o For teachers coming from other states, maybe passing the ACT or SAT

• The basic skills test is redundant with bachelors, or masters

o For me, I feel we have plenty of other measures to determine if teachers have the necessary skills. It is a distrust of the profession.

o All international teachers have had to take the TOEFL

What is one piece of advice for task force members?

• I am grateful that you are here. When this legislation was passed, there were situations not thought through.

• What if current, licensed teachers took the basic skills test? How would they do?

• Instead of a multiple-choice test, maybe an essay. Let us express ourselves.

• Give more time. More limited license (many of us are in our last year of licensure – could lose jobs).

• Candidates from other countries or states with experience should be assessed differently. Consider the case as an individual – humanize it.

• A research project – compare teachers who took basic skills with those who are not required to take it. Take the risk of either losing a lot of teachers or letting those teachers in.

• The anguish of this issue that is brought to these institutions and their families…