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Illinois to Permit More Tries on Basic-Skills Test for Aspiring Teachers

The Illinois state board of education recently rescinded a policy that limited the number of times prospective teachers could take a basic-skills test, fearing that it was preventing too many minority candidates from becoming teachers.

According to pass-rate data, Hispanic and black candidates are far more likely to fail the Illinois test than are their white peers.

Test-takers must still pass all four sections of the exam, which measures reading comprehension, language arts, writing, and mathematics. But now, aspiring teachers may take the exam an unlimited number of times, rather than the five attempts previously allotted.

The cap was established in 2010 as part of rules adopted by the state board that established a more difficult test of basic skills. Despite easing up on the cap last month, Illinois has (so far) successfully resisted a push to lower the cutoff score on the exam.

This may seem like small potatoes, but it's indicative of the collision of two main themes in teacher preparation these days. On the one hand, there's been a huge push to "raise the bar" with respect to teacher education through policies that require applicants to programs to hold higher academic credentials. But there are also growing concerns about how those policies might affect the diversity in the teaching force, which is overwhelmingly white and female.

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