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Righter legislation to help teacher shortage passes Senate Committee

Students seeking to become a teacher would have another way to receive their teaching license under legislation sponsored by State Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) and passed by the Senate Education Committee May 23.

Currently, students must achieve minimum mandatory scores on standardized tests in order to receive their teaching license. Righter’s Senate Bill 1123 would allow a student’s grade point average to play a role in determining whether he or she may be licensed.

“This legislation broadens our view of how we look at what makes a good teacher,” Righter said. “Which is more relevant? A standardized test score on one day when they were perhaps 17 years old, or how they perform over the course of their time at a university, including their education classes? The latter provides us with a far better read concerning how effective a teacher they may be. When we consider what makes a teacher effective, we think about how well they may relate to children or their ability to motivate a child to read. These abilities cannot be measured by a standardized test.”

Righter says his legislation will help address a severe teacher shortage in Illinois. A 2016 report from Teacher of Tomorrowfound Illinois’ schools have some of the highest levels of unfilled teaching positions in the nation, to the tune of 6,381. Since 2011, applications to enroll in teacher preparation programs at universities in Illinois is down 56 percent.

“We’ve take a step away from standardized testing when evaluating students,” Righter said. “We’ve done so out of the realization that some students just are not good standardized test takers, and also because standardized tests don’t measure a student’s entire skillset or potential. To at least some extent, the same logic should apply to those who have a passion for teaching.”

Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Superintendent of Peoria Public Schools, testified at the Senate Education Committee May 23 supporting the legislation. She told lawmakers there is a chronic teacher shortage, especially in high need districts, such as Peoria.

“We are an urban district with over 13,000 students,” Desmoulin-Kherat said. “For many years, we have suffered from a teacher shortage. We are talking about huge job openings and no teachers. We need to do something. This provides an additional option from ACT/SAT/TAP test.”

Senate Bill 1123 passed the Senate Education Committee with 10 members voting “yes” and two members voting “no.” It is now before the full Senate.