Controversy: Teacher Knowledge Vs. Teacher Diversity
The big story of the week so far (in Illinois, at least) seems to be complaints expressed by the state teachers union at a recent state board of education meeting about the new(ish) TAP test for teacher candidates, whose rigor is much higher and whose adoption has led to a decrease in overall and race-specific pass rates.
"Sixty percent of African-Americans used to pass the TAP, according to WBEZ. "Now it’s 17 percent. For Hispanics, the pass rate has dropped from 70 percent, to 22 percent."
As do most of these kinds of stories, the WBEZ Chicago Public Radio story about the new test's impact (Push for teacher quality in Illinois takes toll on minority candidates) focuses largely on the impact of the test on teacher diversity, and about the emotional plight of minority candidates who want to teach but can't pass the test. Ditto for the follow-up segment (Testing teachers causes unexpected racial division).
There's much less attention on the reality that the previous test was much too easy, that too many teachers lack basic (college sophomore) reading writing and math skills, or that teachers can take the test multiple times, or submit ACT or other scores, and that the WBEZ reporter who took the test appeared to have no problem passing it.
Not everyone has responded predictably to the news, however. "Do we need teachers who look like our students?" asks Chicago teacher and blogger Ray Salazar. "Only if they know their content, only if they can teach and engage students, only if they have the social skills to maneuver through class and generational differences, only if they’re focused on students and not on themselves. Being brown and college-degreed and passionate is not enough."
For journalists and others, the fundamental question is whether our primary sympathies and concerns should rest with the teachers, individually and collectively, or with the students and the overall health of the institutions in which teachers work (ie, schools).
Image via Quickmeme