New Jersey to Drop Basic Skills Test For Teachers

(AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

I’m sure there’s no way that this could possibly go completely and horribly wrong, right? Like many states around the country these days, New Jersey is facing a shortage of public school teachers. They simply aren’t receiving enough qualified applicants to fill all of the vacancies they currently have. But if the state’s largest teachers union has its way, that situation will be changing. Rather than finding and attracting more qualified teachers, they’ll just lower the standards for who can be a teacher. The New Jersey Education Association is pushing a bill that will eliminate a basic skills test for new teachers covering reading, writing, and math. They claim that the test presents “an unnecessary barrier” to hiring new teachers.  (Daily Wire)

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One of New Jersey’s main teachers unions is calling for the end of the basic skills test for certifying teachers.

The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is advocating for the demise of the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading, Writing and Math. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s signing of Bill S1553 would eliminate that requirement; NJEA called the test “an unnecessary barrier” hindering the alleviation of teacher shortages.

“When the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) adopted changes to the administrative code around teacher certification, it missed an opportunity to eliminate this requirement, which created an unnecessary barrier to entering the profession,” stated NJEA.

Not to be too much of a stickler here, but if you’re sending your kids off to school, wouldn’t you want to be sure that their teacher was at least competent in the fundamental skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic? The test in question doesn’t seem all that demanding. The highest possible score in each section is 200 and the applicants are only required to achieve scores of 150 to 160 in them. That’s the equivalent of a 75 to 80 percent score or a weak “B” in classroom grading. If they can’t accomplish that much, how are they going to teach children those skills?

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We’ve watched as schools around the nation have steadily reduced the performance requirements for students, even eliminating grading systems in some cases. Now New Jersey wants to boldly lead the way and reduce the requirements for the teachers as well. Is this simply going to become a case of the dumb teaching the dumber? If the teachers are at least competent, the students should still have a fighting chance at getting a decent education. But it doesn’t seem as if they will be able to pass on skills that they do not possess themselves.

Governor Murphy may actually go ahead and sign this bill. After all, those unions donate a lot of money to political campaigns, including his. The Daily Wire points out that the Governor was a guest speaker at the NJEA conference this month. He drew cheers from the audience as he praised their various efforts to address the teacher shortage. He didn’t seem to have much to say about student performance or graduation rates, however. Wasn’t that supposed to be where the main focus should be?

Last year, standardized testing found that just 42 percent of 8th-grade students in New Jersey scored at or above the base fundamental skill level in reading. That’s less than half. Math proficiency was even worse at 39 percent. It just seems as if the Governor could be pushing the union to get those numbers up a bit before they start talking about lowering the requirements for teachers in the same disciplines. Or is it not considered to be worth the effort anymore?

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