MBP Letter: Senate File 429

February 18, 2013

The Honorable Kevin Dahle
Minnesota State Senate
317 State Capitol Building
St. Paul, Minnesota  55155

The Honorable Patricia Torres Ray
Minnesota State Senate
309 State Capitol Building
St. Paul, Minnesota  55155

Dear Senators Dahle and Torres Ray:

We are writing to express our strong concerns with SF 429, and ask that it not be approved by the Senate Education Committee.

SF 429 would repeal the requirement that teachers graduating from Minnesota teacher preparation programs, and teachers coming from another state must pass basic skills exams in reading, writing and math before they enter a classroom. Only nine states don’t require prospective teachers to pass basic skills exams.

We understand the two areas of concern with the basic skills requirement:

  1. The need to accommodate unique circumstances; and
  2. The impact from the state raising expectations on the exams from a high school level to a “college experienced” level.

There should be accommodations to this requirement for a limited number of circumstances, such as teachers who come from another country to temporarily teach in an immersion program, and for candidates with disabilities that inhibit their ability to successfully take the exams.

We believe the state’s efforts to raise basic skills expectations for new and transferring teachers are appropriate. Our support is based on the following:

  1. Academic expectations for both students and teachers are rising, and will continue to rise due to our increasingly global economy and technology;
  2. Raising basic skills expectations for teachers from a high school level to a level which expects them to be able to read college textbooks and perform general math skills is commonsense;
  3. The passing scores on the new basic skills tests were recommended by panels of Minnesota teachers and higher education faculty; and
  4. Teachers are the most important in-school factor in determining student success, ensuring they’ve mastered basic skills in reading, writing and math before they enter a teacher preparation program would be a sound strategy;

With any new set of exams it’s appropriate to confirm whether they meet professional criteria. That said, it’s equally important to consider the data that objective exams reveal, and ask questions about why there are differences between actual vs. expected levels of performance.

Thank you for considering our concerns with SF 429, and we look forward to working with you to ensure all Minnesota students have a world-class education.

Sincerely,

Charlie Weaver
Executive Director