SPRINGFIELD -- A test required for teacher licensing that many argue has contributed to the state's teacher shortage might soon be suspended.
The Illinois Senate on Thursday passed and sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker House Bill 423, which would put what is known as the "test of basic skills" on hold until July 1, 2025, while state officials try to determine whether that will help relieve the state's teacher shortage.
The bill also calls on the Illinois State Board of Education to re-evaluate the method it uses to score another mandatory test that prospective teachers must pass, one that measures their mastery of the content area in which they want to teach.
Those tests are among three tests that people applying for teaching licenses in Illinois must pass. They also must pass a test covering their content area and a test covering teaching practices and standards, known as the edTPA.
A separate bill, House Bill 256, by Chicago Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi, would drastically overhaul that exam as well by removing a component requiring prospective Illinois teachers to videotape themselves in an actual classroom setting. That bill also passed the House in April but so far has not been assigned to a Senate committee.
Those tests were the subject of extensive hearings in the Illinois House where Rep. Sue Scherer, a Decatur Democrat and chief sponsor of the bill, questioned their value and effectiveness. She and others have also suggested that they deter many people from trying to enter the teaching profession and that they have a disproportionate impact on people of color, contributing to the state's teacher shortage.
"We are at a crisis level in the teacher shortage," Scherer said on the House floor during debate over the bill. "It's affecting basically every region in every area across the state, which some people are unaware of. Many classrooms are sitting there without a qualified teacher. I know of a school district that right now has 50 open classrooms without a qualified teacher."
The bill suspending the basic skills test until 2015 passed the House in April, 85-25. It passed the Senate on Thursday, 55-0.