Editorial Writers Say Students Deserve Tested Teachers
Ohanian Comment: Maybe editorial writers don't read the news. Maybe these pontificators don't know about all the teacher exams ETS scored incorrectly, thereby keeping qualified people out of the profession.
While the federal No Child Left Behind Act has its critics, one of the many good things that may come from the sweeping legislation is the reimplementation of teacher testing in Alabama.
For 23 years, a lawsuit alleging that state competency tests for teachers discriminated against blacks has essentially banned teacher testing in the state. Last week the State Board of Education signed a new agreement in the lawsuit that would allow the state to reinstitute testing.
The plan now goes before the trustees of Alabama State University. ASU and a group of black teachers were the plaintiffs in the 1981 lawsuit.
All Alabamians who believe that teachers should be tested on the subject matter they are expected to teach before they are allowed in the classroom should hope the ASU board does not stand in the way.
The state reached an agreement with the plaintiffs in 2000 to begin to administer basic skills tests to prospective teachers, but subject-specific tests were still prohibited.
But the federal No Child Left Behind Act changed the equation in 2001 when it imposed requirements for teachers of core subjects such as math, science, history and language to be "highly qualified" in the areas they teach. To gain that status, a teacher must either hold a specific degree in the subject or pass a test to demonstrate they know the subject.
With the state prohibited from imposing a test, thousands of classroom teachers faced the prospect of being labeled as not highly qualified.
If the agreement receives approval, it would allow the state to contract with the Education Testing Service to use its well-accepted Praxis II exam both to establish highly qualified status for existing teachers and to administer to prospective teachers in public schools.
Under the proposed agreement, new teachers and those transferring to public schools from private schools and from states without a teacher test would be tested.
State school Superintendent Joe Morton said of the agreement: "We're not there yet. We'll have to wait for ASU to act and the judge to approve it all, but I think we're close to a historic moment on the road to improving all our schools."
If approved, new tests might be implemented by late 2005 or early 2006.
The tests are crucial to establishing confidence in the state's teaching corps among parents and the public. Just knowing that the state was prohibited from testing its teachers probably made many people assume there were large numbers of unqualified teachers in classrooms.
At least 38 states already test their teachers to ensure they know the subjects they are expected to teach. We hope ASU trustees will help to give public school students in Alabama that same protection.
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