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Lawmakers Approve Change to Educator Content Exam, Needs Governor's Signature to Become Law

Illinois lawmakers have approved a bill that, if signed into law by Governor Prtizker, would update the existing certification process for those seeking to become elementary school teachers.

As of late May, HB5057 has passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly. The bill impacts the elementary education content exam by removing content areas such as college algebra, college statistics and music theory. The bill also allows for the retaking of only the subsections of the test that were failed previously (instead of taking the whole exam). And it allows student teachers to be in classrooms without first having passed the exam.

State Rep. Scherer (D) of Decatur said she started working on passing this bill 12 years ago and has worked on it continually to try to bring people together since then.

“I am very confident the governor will sign HB5057,” Scherer said. “After 12 years of hard work, the changes made will help put more teachers in classrooms and take down barriers to finding new teachers.”

Teachers must pass an educator content exam with a score of 240 to earn their licensure. However, the elementary education content exam (Grades 1-6) is one of several tests that has been a source of concern for prospective educators. A West40 analysis of public records shows low passing ratios on certain exams, including Mathematics, Early Childhood Education, and Elementary Education (Grades 1-6), for examinees on their first attempt. The results only slightly improve after cumulative attempts.

Some prospective educators attempt to pass their related content exam multiple times while spending hundreds of dollars. New and hopeful teachers have described the difficulty of preparing for the exams and questions that do not appear to be relevant to what they expect to teach in a classroom.

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) said it works with colleges and universities to make sure educator preparation programs (EPPS) are aligned with the standards upon which content exam test items are developed and these standards are the same as what EPPs are required to use to develop their programs.

Still, ISBE said because of concerns about pass rates on the Early Childhood test, it has approved moving forward with an enhanced review and validation of the exam. The review could result in a new passing score for the test. ISBE also said it has also asked for a flex option for the test that offers an alternative assessment for candidates who are close to passing. Last year, ISBE approved its vendor to offer one free practice exam per candidate.

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