Let's be counterintuitive: Teachers shouldn't have to pass a test to be teachers
Taking tests in school is one of the ties that bind us all.
You've got your basic weekly spelling tests. Math tests. Science and social studies unit tests. The dreaded midterms. The outright hated finals. And the bane of every student's existence, the pop quiz.
What's the common thread among all of these?
Teachers gave them to you.
So when I was looking through the list of state House committee hearings happening this week, I was baffled when I hit this:
9 a.m. Wednesday, Education Committee. Public hearing on the following bills:
H.B. 1623 (Rep. Joe Emrick, R-Northampton): Prohibits teacher preparation programs from requiring education students to obtain a passing score on a Praxis exam in order to graduate and from including a student's score on the Praxis exam as a component on a student's course grade.
In his memorandum about the bill, Emrick says that "some colleges and universities offering approved teacher preparation programs require students to pass the Praxis exam in order to receive a college diploma, or include a student's Praxis exam score as a component in the student's course grade. However, the State Board and PDE did not intend for the Praxis exam to be used for these purposes. This practice would be similar to a law school refusing to award a student a law degree because the student failed to pass the bar exam prior to graduation."
I agree that this situation is akin to lawyers having to pass the bar exam to practice law. However, do colleges and universities want to be awarding education degrees to students who are unable to perform the work they've been studying? Does any institute of higher education want to lower its standards so that it has more graduates with diplomas displaying its name, but a rising percentage of those grads are not employable because they cannot perform the work?
Emrick's memorandum further states: "A student enrolled in an approved teacher preparation program should be evaluated and considered for a degree based upon the student's performance in coursework, not based upon the student's performance on a licensure exam."
The irony here is almost palpable. Teachers — who will spend their professional careers evaluating students in large part on their test scores — would not have to be evaluated based in any part on the most important test of their lives, one that would prove they can handle educating our children to become the next generation of workers.
Let the licensure exam do what it is meant to do: Weed out those teachers who are not yet ready. Let colleges and universities continue to use it as a tool to discover which students need more work before they are ready to be entrusted with teaching others.