Illinois lawmakers look to change licensing, testing to find more teachers

Teacher
More than a dozen proposed laws in Springfield attempt to deal with the state’s teacher shortage. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Education/flickr)

By Illinois Radio Network

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers are looking at two reasons why they say there aren’t enough teachers in the state.

There’s a lot of focus on testing and licensing for teachers at the Illinois Capitol this year.

Lawmakers are trying to end Illinois’ teacher shortage. A recent report found 90 percent of schools have trouble finding a teacher or substitute.

Jason Helfer with the Illinois State Board of Education said they are taking a year to study the issue.

“Our year of study will focus on work teacher workforce issues,” Helfer said. “Licensure is one part of that, but not the only part. There are three other parts that include pipeline issues. How do we get young people to enter into the field? Teacher preparation, how are they being prepared and so forth? And finally recruitment, hiring and retention once they are in the district.”

But lawmakers say they want to know why so many people who want to teach can’t pass the state’s basic skills test to start a career.

State Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, said about 60 percent of teacher candidates fail the state’s basic skills test. At a statehouse hearing, she said that’s unacceptable.

“A lot of our college kids are unable to pass the test. They’re not going into teaching,” Mayfield said. “They are like ‘You know what, I’ve given you four years. I’ve taken this test three times, I can’t pass it. You know what. I’m just going to change my major.’ We’re losing teachers.”

Helfer said most prospective teachers in Illinois easily pass the state tests for their subject or specialty, it’s the broader basic skills test that they are having problems with.

Helfer said the state’s licensing issues deal mostly with allowing out-of-state teachers to ease into an Illinois classroom without having to jump through additional hoops.

Lawmakers are also proposing their own fixes. There are more than a dozen proposed laws on file this spring that’d deal with the state’s teacher shortage in one way or another.

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