Teachers Must Pass Basic-Skills Test, Under Woodbury Rep. Kieffer’s Bill

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the legislation into law today, Feb. 22, following two years of work from Woodbury’s House member.

Teacher candidates in Minnesota will have to pass a basic-skills exam before becoming certified under a bill Gov. Mark Dayton signed today, Feb. 22.

Authored by state Rep. Andrea Kieffer, a Republican from Woodbury, the bill will require teachers to pass a test in reading, writing and math. The bill passed the Senate 60-1 and 132-0 in the House.

The bill eliminates a three-year window teachers previously had to pass the test, Kieffer told Patch. The state Board of Teaching reported that there were 30 such teachers in Minnesota classrooms working under a provisional license last year, she said.

Kieffer has been since she was a freshman lawmaker last session. She spoke with higher-education officials, online institutions, the Minnesota Department of Education and others about the legislation.

“There were a lot of stakeholders involved,” Kieffer said. “We wanted to make sure it was something we’d all be pleased with and made good policy.”

Teachers whose licenses come from outside Minnesota will also need to take the test.

The Star Tribune has a story on the wider-reaching implications of the bill.


Kieffer says she’s not planning to run for the new District 53 senate seat.

“Not at this point,” she said.

While Kieffer said she is still digesting all the information from the changes, she too is , adding that the setup makes it easier to communicate with city leaders.

“Overall, when you look at the lines, they pretty much make sense,” Kieffer said. “I don’t have a problem with it. It’s well balanced.”

There will be some changes at the congressional level, however, where Kieffer said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who has primarily represented a democratic stronghold, “will have to listen more to conservative voices, as well.”

Edward February 23, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Nice job, Andrea. The devil is in the details. Let's make sure these tests are available to take on a timely basis (frequently), so that teachers can get the certification quickly, because it wouldn't be right to delay good people she seeking employment (causing them to lose money). Yes, it might cost the taxpayers more money to administer the tests frequently, but if a teacher can't get the proper certification test he might go to other states for a job, where he can get jobs without jumping through so many hoops/dealing with red tape hassle. I have a school admin friend out east who reports that they are hiring some fantastic young teachers out of Wisconsin . . . apparently some good people coming out of the teaching colleges there are turned off by the Walker changes to their compensation and ability to negotiate going forward. That's a bonus for non-Wisconsin school districts, but a loss for the public and private education systems in Wisconsin. Once good teachers leave, they usually don't come back to the state under any circumstances.
Lori February 23, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Maybe our Law Makers should have to take the very same test! All of the teachers I know are highly educated with masters degree's and beyond. In any other career they would be compensated much more for their time however, they make a choice to be teachers. It takes a special person to be a teacher. You don't always find special people through tests!
Edward February 23, 2012 at 07:10 PM
The article (and Andrea) don't speak to the monumental problem that this was (or was not?). How many new teachers in MN fail the basic skills test? Is it 50%? 10%? 1%? My guess is the fail rate is very low. MN teacher training programs at the universities and colleges are some of the top rated in the nation. If you can't read, write and do 'arithmetic you don't get through the college program for starters. This was "feel good" legislation, but it addresses a problem that, for the most part, does not exist. Why did it take some teachers so long to get around to taking the test? Will it now have to be administered more often (on taxpayer nickel) or will we just put up another roadblock that makes it harder for a recent teaching graduate or an experienced teacher moving in from out of state to get a job in Minnesota? It seems like we have more important issues to tackle in Minnesota these days . . . hassling teachers seems to be popular for some odd reason. OTOH, Lori has a good point. We could use some competency tests for legislators.
Dave Anderson February 23, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Lori I agree that teachers are special people and with 3 older kids I have seen some really great teaches but a few who totally abuse the system, making it a tough situation for anyone. However you are totally off base using a comparison of "any other career" Any other job does not mean working only 9 months a year, enjoying multiple Work shop day vacations in those 9 months, not having to worry about performance over senority in tough economic times, or having an artifical pay increase based on degree level. You are correct that people make a choice to become teachers , but when they do so that choice includes the salary level expectations which many now complain about.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 12:17 AM
" but a few who totally abuse the system" This test won't weed out those who abuse the system. It is a simple basic skills test (can you read, write and do math?). It won't do anything to change teacher salaries, workdays, etc. It was rather useless, as legislation goes . . .
Chris Soukup February 24, 2012 at 06:31 AM
Far from useless. The test will affect a small number of people directly (about 30 teachers per year). However, it will help the hundreds of students those teachers would have potentially affected negatively. Small? Maybe. But we all criticize legislators for being partisan and divisive. This is a measure everyone can agree on. It doesn't go after teachers already practicing and It utilizes a test that is already in place. The only difference is that anyone aspiring to teach must pass the exam before going into the classroom. So I really dont see this affecting hiring, encouraging teachers to leave the state, or causing a problem for teachers coming into Minnesota.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 02:12 PM
The devil is in the details. Who pays for the test? Taxpayers? Teachers? What happens when an experienced teacher arrives in Minnesota in October with a spouse due to a job transfer, secures a job to start in November, and the test isn't given again until January? Under this new legislation she can't take the job, because she must have results from a test to prove she can read and write at an 8th grade level (basic skills) before she can step into the classroom. That's a loss to her (financially), the hiring district (talent lost), and the community (excellent teacher can't be hired). Seems stupid to me, but hey, what do I know?
Kris Janisch February 24, 2012 at 02:30 PM
The test already exists, it's just that people can teach on a provisional license for up to three years, I think, without passing it. Now, new teachers MUST pass it before they hit the classroom.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Why did the provisional system exist in the first place? Was it because a teacher moving in from out of state can't take it from out of state? If they show up the week before the job starts, will the test be given (and scored) in time to jump through that hoop? Some tests take six weeks to be scored by an outside firm. Will the turn around on that be speeded up? As I said, the devil is in the details, and Kieffer isn't talking about those details. I guarantee that at least one great teacher will be prevented from walking into a Minnesota classroom by this legislation. That's all I'm saying, and I hope someone has taken this into account. Kieffer can crow about this legislation because it panders to the "those incompetent teachers and they're overpaid!" crowd. Fine. She did it on the backs of a few good teachers and the kids who need their services. It's not real reform. Not even close. It won't change anything, and will make some things worse.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Another question. If a teacher has already taken a similar (or the same) basic skills test in another state (and passed), will this be recognized? Or will they be forced to take the test again?
Kris Janisch February 24, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Teachers from out of state will have to take the test here.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 04:40 PM
So . . . was this legislation passed to set up a roadblock to keep disgruntled Wisconsin teachers (due to the Walker mafia cluster muck on teachers and state workers) out of Minnesota? That's the only way I can see the Minnesota teachers agreeing to this odd and seemingly arbitrary change to the law . . . it seems there is more to this bill than appears at first blush . . . Inquiring minds . . . and all that . . .
Kris Janisch February 24, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Correct. I linked to a Strib story here, they did a piece on the broader implications.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Thanks, Kris. Yes, it does have far reaching implications. There's this: "Private-school teachers are not legally required to pass the test, Hovis said." This means the private schools will get the "underachiever" teachers. Then there's the greater irony of the "less regulation" and "local control" Republicans passing a bill that introduces more regulation and takes control away from the locals -- the districts doing the hiring and assessing skills needed for a particular teaching job. One could argue that a first grade teacher doesn't need to have college level math skills . . . as she'll never teach that level of math in the classroom. Same for many special ed positions. And there's the argument that hiring someone with required high skill level into those positions is a waste of their talent, and someone with those talents will likely be more frustrated or burn out sooner on jobs requiring a constant drone of low level skill teaching. I think this was more political than anything else. It's a win-win-win for both parties ("see? we did do something to reform teaching!"). Just saying . . . the emperor is scantily clad here. This type of legislation is 3 fries short of a happy meal.
Dave Anderson February 24, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Come on Renee you know you don't like this because it was accomplished by a Republican, and a female Republican at that, a profile with whom you seem to have a consistent problem. To your point, private schools have a much greater ability to evaluate teachers on performance over entitlement and to terminate bad teachers for poor performance so much easier than public schools under the limitations mandated by archaic Education Minnesota rules. So public schools are compelled to catch the incompetents much earlier than private schools.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 10:03 PM
"private schools have a much greater ability to evaluate teachers on performance over entitlement" How does that work? " So public schools are compelled to catch the incompetents much earlier than private schools." So the private schools can let the incompetents teach for a year or two before they are "compelled to catch" them? Actually this has nothing to do with a Republican accomplishing the passage of the legislation. She didn't. It was bipartisan -- did you forget the fact that this was signed into law by Dayton? Kieffer was just one vote on it. " a female Republican at that, a profile with whom you seem to have a consistent problem." I find it interesting that you can extrapolate from my dislike of Bachmann to all female Republicans. I actually like Kieffer, even though I'd never vote for her based on ideological differences. She's bright. She shows up and talks to constituents, unlike some others. I'd be careful about trying to analyze the motives of others. I don't swift boat your motives, Davea, but this "kill the messenger" tactic seems to be typical of Rovian types . . . ;-)
Dave Anderson February 24, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Renee unfortunately your history sinks your swift boat
Edward February 24, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Well Davea, let's see. I've been critical of Bachmann, Lillie, and Kieffer -- all representatives of my area, whom I have ideological differences with . . . a couple just happen to be female . . . I suppose, because you don't agree, this make me a person with a "consistent problem". Well yeah . . . I guess I could counter by saying you have consistent problem in not agreeing with me . . . but that would just be more pissing match rhetoric that isn't productive. But go ahead, Davea, have at it if it makes you feel good.
Dave Anderson February 24, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Renee thanks for proving my point. I could not have said it better except you did leave out your criticism of Romney, George Bush, the republican Party, the Tea party and your comparison of some republicans to the Taliban (January 17). Come to think of it maybe you are not so sexist.
Edward February 24, 2012 at 11:35 PM
And which point did I prove? I've come around to liking Mitt Romney. I like Santorum even more. In fact I'm hoping he'll be the party nominee, mostly because he loves and respects women so much ;-)


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