|Back to October Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 189||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||OCTOBER 2001|
|Failing Teachers Equal Failing Students|
The state's biggest flunker was a teacher of learning-disabled students in Chicago who failed 24 of 25 teacher tests, including 12 of 12 tests on how to teach children with learning disabilities. Another teacher failed 19 of 19 tests, including 13 of 13 basic skills tests. One bilingual teacher flunked five of five basic skills tests and three of three elementary school subject matter tests. This teacher was working on a "transitional" bilingual certificate that waives certification testing in Illinois for up to eight years.
How tough is Illinois' basic skills test? According to some experts, it's so easy that an 8th- or 9th-grader should be able to pass it. Yet one of every 10 public school teachers in Chicago has flunked the test at least once. Most of these failing teachers teach in schools with the highest number of failing students, which supports national research indicating a strong link between weak teachers and failing students.
Other research shows that full certification also makes a difference. A 1997 study by the University of Texas found that students scored higher on state tests when taught by fully-licensed teachers. In 1999, researcher Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University, who is the executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, reviewed teacher quality and student achievement. She found that teacher quality is "more strongly related to student achievement than class size, overall spending levels, [and] teacher salaries . . . ." Her research also showed that "the percentage of teachers with full certification and a major in the field is a more powerful predictor of student achievement than teachers' education levels (e.g., master's degrees)."
Many of Illinois' flunking teachers eventually passed their certification tests, but hundreds did not. Yet they remain in the classroom under a "Chicago-only loophole" which allows substitute teachers to teach indefinitely without passing any certification tests. Although other states call such waivers "emergency" or "temporary" permits, Illinois calls them "certificates."
"That's misleading and convoluted and it doesn't accurately reflect what people expect," Sen. Cronin told the Sun-Times. "We're learning that a certificate doesn't mean much [in Illinois]."
With a lack of qualified teachers already plaguing California and growing shortages in many other states, parents and educators worry that testing requirements may be relaxed still further or waived altogether.