Representative makes ‘quality of our teachers’ priority

Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield)

Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield)

Alexandra Nicolas

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri teachers may soon have to prove they can pass the tests they give their students.

As of now, Missouri teachers are required to take their final certification exam in their area of expertise, however if Rep. Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) has her way, teachers K-12 will be required to choose one of three testing options every five years.

House Bill 1476, the “teacher testing bill” mandates that K-12 teachers take tests in both mathematics and communication arts and teachersin grades 8-12 must also demonstrate proficiency in science and social studies.

“This is about the quality of our teachers,” Cunningham said.

In Tuesday’s

hearing Cunningham told the story of a retired high school teacher from Oceanside, Calif. who spent 17 years teaching without knowing how to read, write or spell.

“A 65-year-old volunteer taught him how to read,” Cunningham said.

The bill was also inspired by incidents in urban areas such as St. Louis where teachers are being asked to teach in areas that are not their specialty to fill shortages.

If passed, HB 1476 would give teachers the options of taking the MAP test, the most recent Praxis (a certification test for teachers) or a specialized test created by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Under the bill, new teachers would have to be tested five years from their initial certification; current teachers would be tested in the next five years from their original certification.

Teachers who fail their test may re- test at the next available date, those that fail a second time must go through an appeal process showing they have succeeded in educating their students.

Though most in Tuesday’s hearing agreed with the idea of insuring excellence for Missouri teachers, teachers like Mike Wood of the Missouri State Teachers Association don’t believe this bill will accomplish its goal and that testing is not the right avenue to teacher competency.

“We agree on one thing, we want highly qualified teachers,” he said, “A good administrator knows who can teach their subject matter and who can’t.”

The MSTA also testified that they believe better education for teachers and more practical evaluations will produce better results.

“You need to bring in principals, human resources people from the districts, and teachers in their first three years of teaching with the universities to learn what we need more of and what we need less of,” Wood said. “I bet you’d learn more in that conversation than we will just sitting here talking.”