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Controversial exam for Minnesota teachers faces new criticism

Here’s another consequence of a change of power at the Capitol. Tim Weber of MPR says: “Teachers and school administrators across Minnesota are asking lawmakers to rethink a law they passed last year that was aimed at producing higher-quality teachers. The law requires teacher candidates to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exam before they can get a teacher's license. The test includes reading, math and writing sections. Now schools are worried they might lose recruits, current teachers and particularly teachers of color because they haven't passed the exam. There's currently a proposal at the state Capitol to scrap the test altogether. … There are critics who want to dump the test because of another issue at the core of the debate: Large disparities by race. ... On the writing test, 77 percent of all candidates have passed, including 79 percent of whites, but only 35 percent of blacks passed.”  Ouch.

Because they were so popular the first time … Tim Harlow of the Strib reports: “Remember PhotoCop, the cameras installed years ago at several intersections in Minneapolis that were used to capture red light runners and mail them a ticket? A bill that once again would allow their use is up for discussion today at the State Capitol. … The highly controversial cameras were installed at 12 intersections in Minneapolis in 2005. They operated for eight months and thousands of drivers were captured on video and mailed citations. They were turned off in 2006 when a Hennepin County judge found they violated state law. His ruling was subsequently upheld by the state Supreme Court.” What about traffic drones?

On his weather blog, Paul Douglas makes several predictions:
“1) Based on a shift in the pattern Minnesota's drought will ease by late spring;
2). Last summer we got off easy with tornadoes, due to record heat. This summer we'll spend more time in our basements, with far more severe storms;
3). Another "Black Swan" weather event will strike the US in 2013 — an historic flood, hurricane or major urban tornado; evidence of more heat & energy in the system;
4). We'll pick up close to average snow at MSP (50-55) inches) this winter — February will be our snowiest month, by a country mile. … Thursday's storm doesn't look quite as impressive; a quick burst of plowable amounts before the dry slot pushes in from the south. A second snow storm is brewing 1 week from today; with even heavier amounts.” Let it snow. The Toro is humming like a champ.

GOP Sen. Branden Petersen’s declaration that he would vote for a gay marriage bill has the attention of The Huffington Post. Amanda Terkel writes: “Petersen's father-in-law has been in a same-sex relationship for nearly 20 years and he says the issue has divided his family. … A recent survey by Public Policy Polling found that 47 percent of Minnesotans support marriage equality, compared to 45 percent who oppose. Seventy-five percent back civil unions.”

Yeah, it’s a good day to be outdoors handling big chunks of cold stone … The AP says: “The long process of repairing the exterior stone on the Minnesota State Capitol is getting underway. The Department of Administration says crews will begin installing scaffolding this week to make repairs to the deteriorating Georgia marble facade. The three-phase project is expected to be done by 2015.”

Some traffic fatality states from the Department of Public Safety. Via the Rochester Post-Bulletin: “A year ago today, eight people were killed on Minnesota roads, making it the deadliest day of 2012. Among those killed were four North Dakota State students who were involved in a crash on Interstate 94 near Alexandria. A report from the Minnesota State Patrol attributed the crash to driving too fast for the slick road conditions. According to preliminary reports from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the 384 traffic deaths in 2012 were up from the 368 recorded in 2011. Still, the recent report marks just the second time since 1944 that the state had fewer than 400 deaths. … In the past 20 years, there have been eight days with 10 or more traffic deaths, according to the DPS. … The longest stretch of days in which there were zero deaths was only four, which occurred from Jan. 15-18; Feb. 5-8 and June 10-13. There were 136 days with zero traffic deaths.”

The GleanThere are still facets of tax reciprocity between Minnesota and Wisconsin that need some re-thinking. Shelley Nelson of The Superior Telegram writes: “Without Minnesota legislative action, Wisconsin residents who work in Minnesota and Minnesota residents who work in Wisconsin will probably have to continue filing two state tax forms, Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Richard Chandler told Superior Days delegates Tuesday morning. The sticking point — one that has stalled negotiations for about a year — is the revenue Minnesota would lose from its residents who work in Wisconsin. Minnesota doesn’t provide a full credit for taxes paid to other states, Chandler told the delegates. And Wisconsin taxpayers shouldn’t make up the difference, he said. Wisconsin provides a full credit for income taxes paid to other states. ‘They’re taking a treasury-centric approach,’ Chandler said of Minnesota. ‘We think they should take a taxpayer-centric approach’.” How much more do we have to do for that crowd? I mean, we let 'em live right next door …

And if you hadn’t thought of the business-to-business tax in trucking terms … Pippi Mayfield of the Forum papers says: “One of the changes that would come with Dayton’s budget is a 5.5 percent sales tax for trucking services. That tax would be added every time product is shipped. For example, if it’s lumber, there would be a tax for trucking the raw material out of the woods and to the mill. It would be taxed again to haul it to a plant. It would be taxed yet again to haul it to the distributor, and finally, it could be taxed if it’s trucked to the person purchasing the lumber to build something. This is because each time it is hauled somewhere, it is a service, and therefore would be taxed the proposed 5.5 percent. That has a ‘huge multiplier effect,’ [Minnesota Trucking Association President John] Hausladen said. ‘It’s hard on small businesses in Minnesota.’ ”

The basic message is: “Use more and better words.” A Benilde-St. Margaret student, Jackie Lawyer, writes in a Strib commentary: “We have placed efficiency higher than ‘luxuries’ such as creativity. We cast aside adverbs, adjectives and all manner of descriptive speaking in search of getting to our points swiftly and safely. In so doing, we forfeit texture and color. The Shakespearean era marked the zenith of the English language. An insult hurled in that age had the force of a brick, the bite of a ­piranha. No one worried about the repercussions of political incorrectness, and rolling lists of adjectives were merrily added to any sentence. It was a fearless age. Today we cower. … I implore you to seek out adjectives beyond ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘lame,’ ‘cool’ and ‘awkward.’ They express little passion, and the frequency of their occurrence in our everyday conversations simply bores me.” And you’re a kid

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Comments (6)

Teacher testing

What? I thought the only test they had to pass was to hit the bullseye at 200m!

You mean they have to TEACH too? (Someone better tell the NRA . . . . . . . . . )

The idea

that one can be an outstanding (or even adequate) teacher without a basic ability to read, write and cypher is incomprehensible.
A 77% to 35% disparity between white and black test takers is frightening.
It either indicates a major problem with the tests (and I know that test designers try to avoid any cultural biases) or the there are still major educational differences between blacks and whites.
I'd be interested in seeing a breakdown by subtest area (I would expect maths to be less culturally sensitive than language; certainly this is true for Asians). I would also be interested to see how Hispanics and SE Asians did on the test.
I took a quick look for detailed results by couldn't find anything. Any suggestions?

Where is a sample test?

Remember a while back when there was much angst about the student test scores, and someone posted an available online test with the same kinds of questions? And a bunch of commenters took the test with varying degrees of success (or lack thereof)?

I wonder if there's also an online example of this "teacher's competency test" anywhere? It might help to get some insight into the possibility of cultural bias if we could see the actual questions being asked.


OK -- found some breakdowns.
The most important thing is that out of about 4000 test takers (3000 of them female), only about 100 each were black and Hispanic.
This means that the samples for non-whites were too small to have much validity.
Again, the real question is why the numbers are so small.

It's not rocket science.

Just as a parking ticket is a civil fine which is levied against and payable by the owner of the car, a civil fine can be levied against the owner of a car which runs a red light. (We already hold owners legally responsible for damage caused by the operation, maintenance or use of their vehicle by another.) What the Constitution does not allow is the issuance of a criminal citation or the levy of a criminal penalty absent proof that the individual cited or penalized committed the crime.

Teachers must be able to write.

James Michael Hamilton•12 minutes ago −

I am in my second year of tutoring in middle school. One of the skills my 7th and 8th grade students truly lack is the ability to write simple, declarative sentences, to asemble those sentences into paragraphs and to organize those paragraphs into a finished product, even if only a single page.

Any teacher whose students are expected to turn in such work must be able to so himself or herself. Accepting barely comprehensible, or incomprehensible, work is unacceptable.

The only way we can know whether a teacher has this skill is to test it. While we can argue about the specifics of a given test, can anyone really argue that an english, social studies or science teacher does not need to know how to write? Try taking a test written by someone who can't phrase a question unambiguosly or properly use the vocabulary of his or her own subject matter.

Does an english teacher need a command of math? I don't see why they would. But I would demand that a math teacher be able to write, if only because I insist they be able to present test questions students can understand.

We have teachers who cannot do this. We have administrators who cannot do this. I know; I've worked with the materials that they've prepared.

Finally, there is this corollary of the old maxim that if all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail: "Sharon Freeman, an assistant superintendent in St. Paul, said teaching skills don't shine in a test. She favors scrapping the test altogether. "It's about classroom management and relationships," she said. "Once you get those, the rest of it we can teach. But a test doesn't show if a teacher can form relationships and manage a classroom." So, a manager values management skills above all else. I wish I was surprised.