Proposed teacher testing is a place to start
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Gov. Bob Holden's plan to improve Missouri's struggling schools is raising the ire of teachers, particularly leaders of teachers unions that publicly oppose it.
An attitude has developed in this nation that the teaching profession is sacred. To that end, it often is considered to be politically incorrect to question a teacher's aptitude.
And it can be difficult to remove incompetent or uncaring teachers.
Even the governor's plan, being introduced in the Missouri Legislature this session, doesn't really fix those problems. It just takes a tiny step toward diagnosing educational illnesses in academically ailing schools.
His Accountability Plan for Missouri's Public Schools affects only schools in districts with accreditation problems due to dropout rates, standardized test scores and 11 other criteria. That's 45 districts out of about 530 in the state.
Teachers in the lowest performing schools would be required to pass the PRAXIS II teaching exam in order to qualify for pay raises -- only if they hadn't yet taken it.
Teachers who have joined the profession in this state since 1990 have had to take and pass it, so they wouldn't be affected.
And if the untested teachers fail or choose not to participate, they simply don't get raises.
Perhaps it is understandable why the plan puts some teachers on the defensive.
Much is asked of them, particularly in this age of absentee parenting. Some students come to school ill-prepared to handle academic rigors. Their mothers and fathers don't stress the importance of education at home by monitoring homework assignments and report cards.
That's a shame.
But parents aren't being paid taxpayer dollars to educate their children, and so the governor has no control over what they do in that arena.
He can, however, create a place to start.
Apparently, when state education officials made passing the PRAXIS II a prerequisite for teaching, they had confidence that a person who can pass it is prepared to take on a classroom.
And if a teacher can't do so, he or she must consider a plan to improve or a move into another career.
That certainly seems reasonable when talking about something as important as a child's ability to work on his grade level and later to gain and maintain employment.