Just four years after passing a law mandating that prospective teachers must pass the Test of Academic Proficiency (TAP) within five attempts, Illinois state board of education officials have scrapped this law in hopes of “manipulating the pipeline” of new teachers.
State officials, dismayed at the disproportionately low number of minority teachers compared to minority students in state public schools (for example, in Chicago Public Schools, 86% of students, but less than half of teachers, are black or Latino), felt that something must be done in order to improve the chances of prospective teachers who are also minorities joining the ranks of Illinois teachers. Advocacy groups, anxious to dissuade observers from seeing this move as simply a dumbing-down of the teaching pool, argue that the main reason that minorities were having a harder time passing the TAP test than non-minorities is their background in mostly underperforming schools. In other words, without this state change, the test would be perpetuating a cycle that would never allow for more minority teachers.
The TAP test is not an easy test for anyone who takes it. Melissa Sanchez, writing for Catalyst Chicago, puts it this way:
Test result data from the fourth quarter of 2013, for example, showed that only 18 percent of blacks and 23 percent of Latinos passed the math portion of the test, compared to 40 percent of whites. Meanwhile, only 26 percent of blacks and 34 percent of Latinos met the reading comprehension requirements, compared to 52 percent of whites. Overall, less than a third of all test-takers – and less than 18 percent of black and Latinos — passed all four sections of the test last year, according to state records.
The change certainly indicates that Illinois officials are serious about bringing more minority teachers into classrooms, although a recent study still showed a gap between education programs, which believe that elements of the programs are the most important to prospective teaching students, and prospective teaching students themselves, who see relationships as the most important element.
For more information, please visit: http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2014/03/12/65790/boost-teacher-diversity-state-scraps-limits-basic-skills-test-taking