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Tougher licensing standards

Published (2/13/2009)
By Nick Busse
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A plan supported by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to tighten teacher licensure standards received mixed reviews from House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee members on Feb. 10. No action was taken.

Under the governor’s proposals, aspiring teachers would be required to pass their pre-professional skills test (known as PPST or Praxis I) before entering a teacher training program. Currently teachers can enter a program even if they fail the test — though they must eventually pass it in order to be licensed.

Additionally the governor’s plan — part of his proposed “Teaching Transformation Act” — would raise the minimum passing score on the Praxis II certification exam that teachers take to gain licensure, and it would put an increased emphasis on technology skills.

Department of Education Assistant Commissioner Karen Klinzing said the proposals would ensure that those lacking the basic skills to be effective teachers are eliminated from teacher training programs up front.

John Melick, the department’s director of educator licensing, said some teacher candidates accepted into training programs despite failing the PPST go through three years of teacher training only to be rejected for licensure because they still can’t pass the test.

That observation caused Rep. Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna) to question whether the PPST is really useful in determining who will make a good teacher.

“If you’re getting these phone calls from superintendents saying, ‘This is an excellent teacher. How can we get them to pass this test?’ The question then is how is it a measurement of effectiveness of a teacher?”

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) asked whether it would be better to focus on getting as many new teachers into the field as possible at first and then cut some from the programs later if they’re not effective.

Klinzing responded that it’s easier to provide support to teacher candidates while they’re in college than after they’ve already been in the classroom for three years but still don’t qualify for a license.

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