State

Bill suspending basic skills test for Illinois teachers advances through House

Opponents say it deters some, especially people of color, from entering field

State Rep. Sue Scherer (right) questions the necessity of requiring prospective teachers to pass a handful of tests in order to become licensed in Illinois during a committee hearing at the state Capitol in Springfield.
State Rep. Sue Scherer (right) questions the necessity of requiring prospective teachers to pass a handful of tests in order to become licensed in Illinois during a committee hearing at the state Capitol in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD – A test required for teachers to obtain proper licensing that many argue has contributed to the state’s teacher shortage soon might be suspended.

On Thursday, the Senate passed House Bill 423, which would put what is known as the “test of basic skills” on hold until July 1, 2025, while state officials try to determine whether removing the test will help relieve the state’s teacher shortage.

The bill also calls on the Illinois State Board of Education to re-evaluate the method it uses to score another mandatory test that prospective teachers must pass – one that measures their mastery of the content area in which they want to teach.

Those tests are among three tests that people applying for teaching licenses in Illinois must pass. They also must pass a test covering their content area and a test covering teaching practices and standards, known as the edTPA.

A separate bill, House Bill 256, sponsored by state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, drastically would overhaul that exam, as well, by removing a component requiring prospective Illinois teachers to videotape themselves in an classroom setting. That bill also passed the House in April, but so far, it has not been assigned to a Senate committee.

Those tests were the subject of extensive hearings in the Illinois House, where state Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, who is chief sponsor of the bill, questioned their value and effectiveness.

She and others also have suggested that they deter many people from trying to enter the teaching profession, and they have a disproportionate effect on people of color, contributing to the state’s teacher shortage.

“We are at a crisis level in the teacher shortage,” Scherer said on the House floor during a debate over the bill. “It’s affecting basically every region in every area across the state, which some people are unaware of. Many classrooms are sitting there without a qualified teacher. I know of a school district that right now has 50 open classrooms without a qualified teacher.”

The bill suspending the basic skills test until 2015 passed the House in April, 85-25. It passed the Senate on Thursday, 55-0.

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