(The Center Square) – Missouri’s State Board of Education changed teacher testing certification requirements earlier this month to fill more than 3,000 positions in 2021 left unfilled or filled by individuals not appropriately certified.
Prospective teachers for all levels who scored just below passing on Missouri assessment tests will be granted certification if they also maintained a 3.0 grade-point average in college program coursework and successfully completed supervised student teaching and other requirements. The Board authorized the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to grant certificates to those test takers scoring within one standard of error measurement (SEM) below the current qualifying score on content assessment tests. DESE estimated the difference is one to four questions.
The Board in April lowered the score by two SEM for those taking the elementary education certification tests.
Paul Katnik, assistant DESE commissioner for educator quality, said the number of qualified teachers in Missouri declined for years before the pandemic accelerated the trend.
“We’ve got a supply and demand issue and it’s to a point where we’re really out of balance,” Katnik said in an interview with The Center Square. “Last year was very tough and schools are having trouble finding people for this year.”
Katnik said many schools are bringing in substitute teachers and administrators to cover classes and not giving students sufficient quality instruction. It led to DESE examining the 220 score on certification testing for teachers.
“We explored the statistical science around assessments,” Katnik said. “If I get a 219 and don’t get certified, the science and the testing company will tell you there’s not any big difference when comparing the skills and knowledge with someone who passed. On any given day, we could take the test and I could get a 222 and you might get a 218.”
Katnik said having more certified teachers committed to classrooms will improve the quality of education throughout the state. DESE estimated that 56,000 students could be affected by the change. DESE data showed approximately 450 prospective pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers in many areas received certification test scores one SEM below passing since last September.
“This is a move that really serves the taxpayers because it will bring in more teachers,” Katnik said. “Certified teachers will be ready to teach your child. Our schools are struggling to find people who want to be teachers and it’s become impossible to guarantee that for every child in every class.”