Utah Bill Would Require Additional Test for Alternative-Certified Teachers

Published May 15, 2017

State Sen. Ann Millner (R-Ogden) introduced Senate Bill 78, which would require people who become licensed as teachers through nontraditional ways to take an additional assessment.  Nontraditional pathways currently available in Utah include the Academic Pathway to Teaching program, which enables school administrators to hire people with at least a bachelor’s degree who can earn their teaching license with three years of supervision and mentoring from a veteran teacher.

SB 78 would require such teachers to pass a pedagogical assessment testing them on their skills in such areas as lesson planning and classroom management before obtaining their license in their third year of teaching. The cost of taking the test is estimated to be $300, The Salt Lake Tribune reported in February.

The bill passed overwhelmingly in the state’s Senate, by a 22-3 vote, in early February and is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Rules Committee.

‘We Hate This Bill’

Wendy Hart, a member of the Alpine School Board, representing the largest public school district in Utah, says she and fellow members are against SB 78.

“We hate this bill,” Hart said. “Our board, [during a February meeting,] stated that we are unanimously opposed to it.”

During that meeting, Board President John Burton, secondary field coordinator for the School of Education at Utah Valley University (UVU), called the bill “ridiculous” and questioned the costs to students, especially while Utah is experiencing a teacher shortage and student-teachers are already required to take a $150 teacher licensing test called Praxis.

“I’m seeing fewer and fewer kids come to UVU and enroll in secondary ed and elementary ed, and then we want to do this on top of all that?” Burton said. “Just say, ‘Hey we really want to price you out of becoming teachers’?” Burton said.

David Cox, a retired teacher, author of the Teaching Conservative blog, and a former Utah state legislator, says the additional assessment is unnecessary.

“SB 78 basically sets up a philosophical purity test for teachers who get alternative certification,” Cox said. “My district is opposed to this bill, and I’ve been told that many teachers also oppose it.”

Cronyism Accusations

Cox says adding another assessment for teachers will benefit the test-makers.

“The colleges of education will end up being the ones who create the test,” said Cox. “They want it because that means these teachers would have to take classes in it in order to pass the test, so there is a vested interest, financially.”

Hart says it’s not clear what would happen to this new test if the Utah State Office of Education were to change the state’s educational standards.

“The State Office of Education publishes their ‘effective teaching standards,’ which include the Utah Core Standards,” Hart said. “So, do we have to pay to realign this test every time we change a standard or two? How exactly will that work?”

‘The Constructivist Philosophy’

Cox says the pedagogical assessment could be another pathway for the state to intrude into the classroom.

“These colleges of education have become so inbred with the constructivist philosophy that they are trying to impose that philosophy on all teachers,” Cox said. “They already propagandize all potential teachers in their regular programs, and now they want to prevent anyone coming in through alternative certification who is not completely indoctrinated or propagandized in this faulty philosophy as well.”

Hart says because this new test is pedagogically based, it could further impose a discredited methodology and marginalize direct instruction in skills and knowledge.

“Personally, I believe a pedagogical assessment will further curtail the ability of parents to get things like traditional math or a classical education in our public school system,” Hart said. “One of the biggest complaints parents have had about math is the Common Core, constructivist, math methodology.”

Constructive teaching methods for math focus more on process than memorization, and they often involve forcing students to learn several different ways to approach solving a math problem.

“You can’t just say 2+2=4,” Hart said. “It is assumed that if you can’t show five different ways of doing basic arithmetic, you don’t understand it. This test, of course, like the Common Core-aligned tests, will penalize those who use a traditional math methodology.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.