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Measure to remove challenge for prospective Illinois teachers

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(The Center Square) – A measure on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk looks for better assessment for student teachers than one self-produced video.

Most Illinois school districts are struggling to find enough teachers. Among other requirements, prospective teachers are required to take a performance assessment that includes compiling video clips of lesson plans so they can get their license. The test is known as edTPA and costs $300.

Mark Klaisner, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, said education professionals are skeptical of the usefulness of the video assessments.

“In many educator’s minds, the videos are a lot of rigamarole without much value,” Klaisner said.

State Sen. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, has led an effort in the General Assembly to do away with the edTPA requirement and replace it with something better. Senate Bill 1488 advanced during spring session and was sent to the governor’s desk last month.

A one-time video of a teaching session does not tell an evaluator much about what kind of skills the student teacher has acquired, Klaisner said. The video requirement was waived during the COVID-19 pandemic without consequences.

“No one saw any different outcomes in terms of student teacher quality,” Klaisner said. “Lots of people started asking, ‘Why do we need this?’”

In Klaisner’s day, student teachers worked alongside a lead teacher in their classroom. Their education professors from college made visits to the classroom to give in-person tips and help.

Every one of the schools in Klaisner’s district needs more qualified teachers, he said.

“We keep hearing that students are choosing not to complete their teacher training because they know that there is this time-consuming, crazy assessment that they have to pay $300 for,” he said.

Student teachers are not permitted to have part-time jobs when they are teaching because schools want them to focus all their energy on their classroom training. The $300 video assessment fee is an expensive roadblock that discourages would-be teachers.

To make a video in a classroom, student teachers are required to get written permission from the parents of each child in the classroom. If some of the parents don’t sign the paperwork, the student has to teach the lesson while moving around so that they keep those children out of the video.

“They are not really teaching. They are orchestrating something on stage,” Klaisner said.

Bennett’s legislation waives the edTPA with the video requirement for two years. It would require a Teacher Performance Assessment Task Force to come up with a new evaluation system to replace edTPA.

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