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Utah Lawmakers Look to Institute Test of Teaching Skills

A few months after Utah policymakers created an alternative pathway to teaching that would allow people with no teaching experience to take the helm of classrooms, some state lawmakers are looking to require educators to pass an exam to prove that they can teach before getting a full license.

Senate bill 78, which won unanimous approval from the Utah legislature's Senate education committee, would compel the state board of education to "establish a teacher pedagogical assessment that is performance based and assesses an individual's pedagogical skills," but the bill would leave it up to the board to decide which test is best.

One former college president raved about the bill to the Deseret News.

"I think this is a really important step to ensure that every single teacher who steps into a classroom in Utah is a highly effective teacher that can best support our children," F. Ann Millner, the president of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, told the newspaper. "It's kind of interesting we've not really had this in place for the teaching profession. We've had it on the content side. We've not had that on what's really important, their ability to teach."

But not everyone is happy about the proposed legislation. The state's teachers' union and some education school professors have expressed concern that the bill would create an unequal playing field for teachers certified through traditional teacher preparation programs and those who entered the classroom under the alternative certification plan created last summer. Teachers in traditional programs would be given the test after they completed their training, while alternatively certified teachers would have the benefit of years in the classroom before they had to take the test of teaching skills.

"One group has to pass an assessment to receive a license ... but another group of teachers has up to two years in a classroom working with students before they must pass an assessment to retain a license. We have concerns about that," Sara Jones, the government relations director for the Utah Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Associationtold the Deseret News. "If the standard is every educator should be ready to teach on day one, that standard should apply to every educator. We support that standard."

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