Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of becoming a teacher. I used to dress my little brother up as a student and play school for hours. I invested my time in creating lesson plans and reading several books. As I grew older, this joy only continued to develop. I found myself volunteering in schools through National Honor Society and babysitting for several families. By the time my sophomore year of high school came around, I knew exactly what I wanted to study. I had been on the honor roll every semester since sixth grade, and I knew that in order to achieve my goal, I needed to continue that momentum.
My junior year of high school, I took two college courses through the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State University, Mankato still maintaining my place on the honor roll. By the time my senior year of high school came around, I was fully enrolled as a post-secondary education option student taking college courses full-time at Normandale Community College. By the time I graduated high school, I had successfully earned forty-two college credits, all with a grade no lower than an A-. When the time came for me to transfer to MSUM, I was ecstatic to move to Fargo and start a new adventure. For the first time, I would be taking courses specific to my major and I would be one step closer to achieving the biggest dream of my professional life. The more I found out, the more excited I became. My first semester at MSUM, I took 18 credits and earned a 3.94 GPA, all while maintaining a job at a daycare in Fargo. Any student would be proud to have such high credentials, yet I still feel like a failure. Why might you ask? The answer is the Minnesota Teaching Licensure Examinations.
I took all three tests on the same day my first time and was happy to find that I passed the math and the writing. However, I was shocked to have failed the reading. After some more time studying, I enrolled to retake the reading and once again I was unsuccessful. Failing it the second time broke me and made me have doubts about myself so after five months of studying alongside my college courses, I enrolled to take it again. Even after three times and several hours of studying, I was unsuccessful. I walked away shattered and feeling like a failure but soon learned that I was not the only one suffering with this test. Several of my fellow classmates at MSUM and other Minnesota colleges have continued to fail at least one of the three portions several times. I have even heard of students that are able to pass their content and pedagogy tests but not the basic skills.
I agree that basic skills are absolutely necessary prior to teaching in the classroom. I believe that we should be offering the future of America the most qualified teachers we can find, however, I am concerned that the basic skills is turning away people that are more than qualified to teach. These individuals have the skills, the GPA, and the love for teaching but not the ability to pass one test. I worry that the test is not measuring what it is supposed to. It’s difficult for me to see why so many have continued to fail knowing how well they do in school and how hard they are trying.
We are told that teachers must advocate for their students, that it is their job to do so. As the old saying goes, we must love ourselves before we can love another. We must advocate for ourselves so that we may strive to advocate for our future students. If we do not make our concerns heard, there may be several students who miss out on the opportunity to have amazing teachers simply because of a basic skills test. I am scared that I have spent three years of my life and thousands of dollars on a degree that will remain unfinished because of a test.
I ask that you please consider the problem at hand. Think of your friends who are trying to enter the teaching field in Minnesota colleges and spread the word. Encourage them to submit their stories to the Minnesota House of Representatives. The more personal stories that we can share with the state, the better. The information and the statistics are there. It is our job to open their eyes to it and start a path to a better future.
BY KAYLA VANDENHEUVEL