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Bill calls for review of teacher licensing standards

State Sen. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, is the sponsor of a bill to review the state's teacher licensure process.

SPRINGFIELD – Some Illinois lawmakers are calling for a review of one of the tests prospective teachers must pass in order to be licensed in Illinois.

The test is known as the Teacher Performance Assessment, or “edTPA,” and it is intended to determine whether a prospective teacher has the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in the classroom. It has been a requirement for teacher licensing in Illinois since 2015.

State Sen. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, said he started hearing concerns about the test from people in his district, and he later learned that those concerns were shared by other lawmakers.

“And it was over and over again,” he said in an interview. “I was only hearing from a few folks that thought it was the best thing since sliced bread, which, okay, but then I hear from the other side. It’s like, I’m not hearing the same thing from people in my district.”

Every state has its own criteria for licensing teachers and every school of education uses its own curriculum for training teachers. Developed at Stanford University, the edTPA was intended to be a standardized way of measuring an aspiring teacher’s knowledge and abilities, regardless of what state they came from or which college or university they attended.

The assessment is given at the end of a prospective teacher’s student teaching experience. It’s a performance-based assessment that, among other things, requires applicants to submit a portfolio that includes actual lesson plans and tests that they’ve administered, examples of their students’ work, and other material that demonstrates their knowledge and competence.

The portfolios are then scored by teachers and teacher educators with expertise in the subjects and grade level in which the applicant is seeking a license.

Bennett said that having outside evaluators who have never met or worked with the applicant scoring their portfolios is one of the issues that concerns him about edTPA.

“They’re weighing in, and their weight is pretty heavy,” he said. “If they pass, great. If they don’t, it’s based on this evaluation from these folks that don’t understand the whole situation. So that just got my attention.”

Sen. Meg Loughran Cappel, D-Shorewood, a cosponsor of the bill, said she has concerns that edTPA is so rigorous and intensive that it could deter some people from ever trying to become a teacher.

“You will have someone that wants to be a math teacher, and then they get to the point where they have to do all this work for their student teaching and all this additional rigorous testing and projects,” she said. “And what you end up having is, they’re like, ‘Why would I go through all of this and maybe not even make it, only to make $40,000 coming out (of college) when I could stop what I’m doing right now as a junior, take a couple extra classes and become an accountant and come out making $60,000 or $65,000?’”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. JB Pritzker issued an executive order suspending use of the edTPA but that executive order will expire when the disaster declaration is lifted on May 11.

Bennett is the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1488, which passed unanimously out of the Senate March 30 and now awaits action in the House. It would continue the suspension of the edTPA through Aug. 31, 2025. It would also establish a task force to evaluate teacher performance assessment systems and make recommendations to the State Board of Education and the General Assembly by Aug. 1, 2024.

“I think this is a good time to sit back, let’s review it, see what we got, and I’m very grateful for bipartisan support from a number of Republican and Democrat senators really feeling the same way,” Bennett said.

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Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. It is funded by donations from the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government. Capitol News Illinois provides year-round, daily coverage of the Legislature, including committee hearings; state agencies and issues; state office holders; and the Illinois Supreme Court and legal matters.

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