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New Illinois law eliminates need for teachers to pass test of basic skills

SPRINGFIELD — A new law signed by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker on Wednesday eliminates the requirement that teacher candidates pass a test of basic skills to receive a Professional Educator License.

The Governor’s office reported that there were more than 1,400 unfilled positions in Illinois classrooms at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and stated that the elimination of the test of basic skills will clear the path for any teacher candidate who had completed all other requirements to earn the Professional Educator License.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has identified 246 currently pending license applications that will be updated and either receive a license or be able to move forward with other remaining requirements. The new law allows approximately 1,300 teaching candidates to begin student teaching this fall.

“I applaud Governor JB Pritzker and the General Assembly for listening to the voices of current and prospective teachers,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “The State Board of Education supports high standards for the professionals in our classrooms. However, the test of basic skills did not advance teacher effectiveness. Rather, it created a financial and practical barrier that prevented highly skilled and passionate potential teachers from beginning their careers in Illinois.”

The Governor’s office stated that Public Act 101-0220 removes an unnecessary financial and practical barrier for teacher candidates, as admission to a teacher preparation program already demonstrates that candidates possess basic academic skills. The test had required all teacher candidates to demonstrate complex skills, such as geometry proofs, that often were unrelated to the grade or subject the candidate intended to teach. Teacher candidates were able to meet this requirement by taking either the Test of Academic Proficiency, the SAT, or the ACT. Each test cost more than $60.

Teaching candidates still must pass the edTPA, a performance-based and subject-specific assessment that asks teacher candidates to demonstrate their skills in planning, instruction, and assessment, and the content test relevant to the subject and grade they intend to teach. ISBE supports licensure requirements beyond obtaining a university degree to help ensure that candidates prepared in any and all of Illinois’ 57 teacher preparation programs can demonstrate the capacities necessary to teach effectively on Day 1 in the classroom.

The Governor’s office stated that Public Act 101-0220 takes additional steps to address the statewide teacher shortage. It clarifies that student teachers may be paid and allows teachers in Evidence-Based Funding Tier 1 districts to be reimbursed for edTPA test fees, subject to appropriation.

“Ensuring every classroom has a prepared and effective teacher is a matter of equity,” said Ayala. “Illinois is facing a complex teacher shortage along with the rest of the country. We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers, institutions of higher education, and the field on short- and long-term solutions.”

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Jim Roberts

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