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December 22, 2014

School officials: New standards won’t affect teacher hiring

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Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014 4:59 pm | Updated: 5:04 pm, Fri Jun 20, 2014.

Starting in September, Alabama schools will hold new middle school teachers to tougher standards when they apply for jobs, but local officials say it won’t have much an effect on hiring.

Last week the Alabama Board of Education voted to increase the minimum score on the Praxis II Middle School Science test from 142 to 151 for new educators to earn teaching certificates. The test is on a 1-200 point scale. The change brings Alabama in line with other states that use the testing service to accredit teachers. According to Educational Teaching Services, which administers the Praxis tests for teachers in 40 states, the nationwide average score on the middle school science test ranges from 147 to 170, with a median score of 157.

Superintendents in Calhoun County don’t think the score increase will alter how schools will hire teachers.

“It might affect 1 to 3 percent, that’s a guesstimate,” said Calhoun County Schools Superintendent Joe Dyar, referring to how many teachers employed by the school board would not have the new minimum score on the test. “It’s really a small change.”

But it’s a small change that Dyar said he welcomes as schools seek to toughen curricular standards for students and teachers.

“This has been something that’s been coming for a while now,” Dyar said. “If we’re going to ask our students to clear new bars and have more rigor in instruction, then it’s only fair we ask our teachers the same.”

The changes make Alabama’s minimum score higher than surrounding states, passing Mississippi’s at 144 and Georgia’s at 148. Tennessee does not require middle school teachers to take the Praxis II science exam. Florida is one of 10 states that does not use Praxis exams for teacher evaluations.

The changes come after a report released last year from the National Council on Teacher Quality that gave Alabama teaching colleges, including Auburn University, the University of Alabama and Alabama A&M University some of the lowest marks in the country on providing qualified educators. The report prompted State Superintendent Tommy Bice to create a special council to explore improving teacher preparation in Alabama.

Despite the changes, Darren Douthitt, superintendent of Anniston City Schools, said he sees no reason the new standard would change hiring practices, and doesn’t expect there to be any drop-off in quality teachers looking for jobs in local schools.

“We haven’t had any shortage of teachers in the last few years,” Douthitt said. “Colleges are still providing us with lots of qualified people, so no, I don’t see how this would have any real affect on us.”

How teachers feel about the changes, though, isn’t clear. Angela Morgan, an Alexandria High School teacher and Uniserv Director with the Alabama Education Association, said she could not comment on the new standards Friday, and said no other association representative was available for comment.

The new standards go into effect on Sept. 1.

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