TAP robbing Illinois of teachers


Being a university that has an incredible amount of education majors, many students on campus are at least familiar with the Test of Academic Proficiency, better known as the TAP. For some students, it was just another loophole to jump through, for others it was likely their worst nightmare.

Despite being easy for some, the TAP has an unbelievable failure rate. Making it worse is the high cost and even higher stakes of the test. Students are only able to take the test five times, and if they don’t pass, they can never be a teacher in Illinois. While the Chicago Tribune has recently reported that the harsh rule could be changed, the damage for many has already been done.

Every profession has tests and evaluations to ensure that only the best aspiring professionals qualify. There is nothing wrong with that. However, at what point was it decided that an exam taken on a computer was the best way of conducting such an evaluation?

With more and more stipulations being created (e.g. the edTPA) and an already high teacher turnover rate, Illinois will soon be seeing the consequences of what’s becoming a discouraging state to be a teacher in. Prospective teachers may leave for different states, or worse, be disheartened from the field altogether.

There are obviously many tests that one must pass to earn a degree, but there are few that are as harsh as the TAP. There is little reason to allow only five tries and creates much unneeded pressure on the individual taking it. The test is already expensive enough, and shouldn’t also carry the unnecessary weight of such a rule.

The strict rules of the TAP pale in comparison to some of the other negative effects it is having on prospective teachers. Amongst the TAP’s worst aspects is its alienation of aspiring minority teachers. Of the tests administered in April 2012 for example, only 15 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Hispanic students passed the basic skills test. While failure rates are already generally high, minorities are suffering the most.

Such results are incredibly tragic, as the TAP could be taking away from the diversity of the profession. The education field in its current state is already in a dire need for diversity and it’s a shame that one test could be setting the field even farther back.

Even if the TAP test does measure a college student’s academic proficiency to some degree, it still doesn’t outweigh the skills and rigor that a college program can provide. If a student can successfully navigate such a program, and a university finds them worthy of a degree, is such an examination necessary in the first place?

There is certainly value in ensuring that all college education majors are qualified to be teachers, but the state should trust universities to decide this. There are much better ways of evaluating the skills of students than what a single test can find. If however, Illinois insists on continuing with the TAP, then it should at least rethink some of the harsh rules that come along with it.

Illinois is in dire need of great teachers, especially young ones. While there will always be those that will work hard to become certified in Illinois, there could also be an increase in those that are turned off by how difficult and costly it is to become one. While we should have high standards for those that wish to become teachers, at some point we need to wonder if the attempt at being “selective” could be more detrimental than we realize in the long term.

21 Responses

  1. Dena

    I am 40 years old and want to be accepted into a School Nurse Certificate Program. I have a bachelor’s degree, 17 years of ER nursing experience, and 1 year of school nurse experience. I am scheduled to take the TAP on Dec 18th, one week from today. I have logged approximately 50-80 hours studying and I am barely passing my practice tests. I took the ACT a long time ago and got a 25. I do not fear taking a test. I also aced my nursing boards.
    Tonight, after another 2 hours of studying, I came to the conclusion that the TAP test writers went overboard in raising the bar for teachers. I am concerned that if this test doesn’t get revised that we won’t have any young teachers. The questions on the practice tests are fine, it’s the answers they give you to choose from that are similar to splitting hairs ( mostly on the reading comprehension) And I am also very concerned that I will not finish in time. I agree that there should be a test of academic acumen, but this will deter people from choosing the teaching profession. I fully agree that being too selective will be detrimental.

  2. Rhonda Hampton

    I agree that this is a ridiculous determination of readiness for a teacher, counselor or nurse in the school system. If I am not mistaken, we have to test for our specific specialty…as I had to take the ILTS Test 181 for school counselors because Illinois does not accept the Praxis series of tests (just reinforcing the fact that these tests are a money making scheme for the state!) and passed it with an “A” score, as I did the Praxis for my Missouri certification. Considering I graduated “with honors” with a psychology BA and MEd in school counseling, I believe I am “educated” enough! But I am 44! For those of us going into the profession at a later age, it has been YEARS since high school, when such information that we are tested on in this TAP and ACT for that matter, was “fresh” in our minds. I made a 24 on my ACT in high school but that is not acceptable now, as it was over 10 years ago. I have spent a good $100 in testing materials for the TAP and like the above poster, barely pass the practice tests!! The IL website lists the last few years worth of statistics for passing this test and it is overall 30%–year after year after year!! And the ungodly price they charge for it and retakes is totally RIDICULOUS!! Something is very wrong and I constantly see comments from those taking it that it is just too long for the time available and confusing overall. If you choose to break up the tests into more manageable blocks, you pay even more!! Plus, the crazy rule of no calculators when much is long multiplication and division, no wonder test takers are worn out and frustrated before finishing. Even high school students can use calculators on the ACT! Very sad. I am planning on trying the ACT next month but even the math practice tests that I have been taking are iffy because math has never been my strong suit and I have not been in a geometry, trigonometry or calculus class in 25 years! I should not be penalized for that! The state of Illinois should be responsible for my $70,000 in student loans due to me not being able to practice my profession based on this ONE test requirement!

    • Erica

      I totally agree with the above comments!!! Imagine being in grad school, passed the Universities requirements, and they will not allow you to start practicum because of this test. And to top it off, I’m in communication disorders (speech pathology) an not in education. We are therapist and not educators. I have topped over $2000 in paying for this test and preparation, and still have not passed. I have been out of high school 18 years and continue to score points away from passing, but have not passed. Now, I have to take the test all over again. This is mentally exhausting and t=something seriously has to be done about this. As one of the above commentors mentioned, when have to take content-area exams and our Praxiss for speech pathologist, WHY DO WE HAVE TO TAKE THIS TEST!

      • mollie burd

        I totally agree also. I am 45 and graduated with highest honors with a B.A. degree to be an Early Childhood teachers, but because I am not passing the math portion of the Proficiency test in Illinois I can not student teach and become a teacher. I am teaching only up to third grade and feel I do no need to know high school math at that level. However, I took the math and did not pass even after preparing for it. I am devastated, I am too old to go back to school for another degree now. This has been a nightmare for me and has ruined my career choice. On top of it I have a student loan to pay off and not a job to pay it.

        • Erica

          Let’s get together and go to ISBE with our concerns. I am in a similar position and know that we are not the only ones. We have to let ur voices be heard!

          • JD

            I am in a similar situation. I have completed all Masters graduate coursework in the field of Secondary Ed. I have a bachelors degree in Anthropology. I worked at a world class museum teaching Science in a non-formal way. I currently work with surgeons as a tech. I am not uneducated or underqualified to teach. I took the TAP test and failed each portion accept the writing. I took the ACT and scored a 19. I believe this is a money making scam by the state. I am in debt for student loans and feel inadequate to teach in Illinois when we here that are complaining have way more work and life experiences then these jokers running this system. If I can only prove that I can teach to them without taking any formal exams I would. This is so disheartening. I am lost and do not know what to do or where to go. Any help?

    • misszhart

      Wishing you the best as I will need it too.

    • Erica

      I TOTALLY AGREE!!!! I am study =ing communication disorders (speech pathology) and my program has pushed me to the end of the program and stopped mr from competing my degree based on this test. I want my student loans paid for. It’s obvious that the universities are more concerned about enrollment numbers, rather than the academic success of the student. I would have preferred to be stopped in my undergraduate program versus at the end of my graduate program. There should be a class action lawsuit about this exam. How do you go from 50% requirement in language arts and reading, to 85% passing score and 35% in math t0 75% passing score! WHO CAME UP WITH THESE NUMBERS! There is an influx of returning students who haven’t had to use these skill in over 10 years. We already have to take and pass test in our required field, what does the TAP have to do with speech pathology? NOTHING.

  3. Chris

    I totally agree with both of you. I purchased the TAP practice test and took it today. Only 60 percent in each area…UGH!!! I need at least 80. So I have set up a study plan but I agree this test does not show what kind of teacher or nurse we will be. I tried the ACT last month and was ridiculed by one of the administrates as they made the comment that, “it’s nice to see older adults” here taking the test. Really?? That just shot my self esteem right there. So here I go, study, study, for a test that I really feel is not going to show my ability to teach.

  4. Ryan

    You all do realize you can just retake the ACT, right? It’s easier, and much cheaper. You don’t need to be in high school to take the ACT. There is zero reason to take the TAP test. But, you all did your research, right?

  5. Melissa

    This is so aggravating! I have a high GPA, and I go to a 4-year university. I took the ACT 4 times! I took it twice in high school, and I was fine with my score. It got me into my #1 school with a scholarship. I started taking education classes, and I found out that I can only take two education classes because I did not have at least a 22 on my ACT and I did not take the TAP test. I tried. I really did. I took the ACT another two times, and I completed a 10-week ACT prep class. I also did not pass all of the TAP sub-tests. Now I have to get a career in something I do not want to do because of this law.

  6. Dena

    Update on my first post:
    Took the TAP, passed 98% in Reading, 85% Grammar, 60-something in math. I had 3 minutes left to complete the writing assignment. So another 125.00 later and I am retaking the math and taking the writing. The reading passages were very long. I didn’t have time to check over my math answers. I think the test wasn’t terrible but there’s clearly not enough time.
    Ryan-I know I could have taken the ACT, that’s what UIC advised us to do. But I wanted to get into UIC for the spring program which started in Jan. The ACT is only offered a few times a year. Now that I am 2 tests deep, I am just continuing with the TAP( bought materials for it too.)
    Hoping I pass in March. Good luck everyone. At least I can now determine the slope of a line and solve 2 variable algebraic expressions. So this helps me help my daughter with her homework:) Gotta look at the bright side.

  7. Federico

    After spending way too much time on the math portion on my first attempt, I not only failed the math anyway but also only had time left to finish the reading portion, which I passed. The second time I took it, I decided to ignore math just so I could get the other tests out of the way. I passed both the writing and the grammar on the second try without even studying. I never studied for any portion of the TAP, except for the math. I gave the math a try the second time since I was there with an hour and a half left but, of course, I failed it. I’ve focused all my energies on the math which I have just failed for the third time. I’m going to give the ACT a shot but I’ve read that even that’s gotten harder this year. I’m considering just dropping my current graduate program and joining Teach for America. So, Illinois just might miss out on a teacher who passed all other portions of the TAP without even studying and who would have had a Masters in education instead of just a Bachelors. Illinois’ loss, I guess.

  8. Nina

    I agree with all of you. I have totally given up on taking this test and decided I would get my masters degree in another area of education. I don’t want to spend any more money or time in trying to pass the math portion of a test that i will never teach.

  9. Abreeya

    I am scared to death of this test. I took the cbest, praxis 1 and hs english praxis 2 but I feel like this test must be harder than all of those combined. Why? A part of me feels like it can’t be THAT hard, right? Idk. I take my exam next week. I guess I will just have to wait and see. For those who have taken it would you guys mind letting us know the most difficult parts for you? Also, how many weeks or months did you study? And did you feel one hundred percent confident going into the test?

  10. Jim

    It’s not the test in and of itself that’s difficult; it’s the reality that if you don’t pass, you do not have a career. This increases performance anxiety to the point of self-sabotage. I passed all subtests, but did so by constantly reinforcing the idea that the test is not difficult–I am making it difficult. If you can try to relax your mind and control your breathing for the duration of the test you will have better results. I too am older with a masters beginning a new career. Nobody should be spending a lot of money to prep for this test. You will only confuse yourself–remember this test is basic and should be treated as such. What I found difficult is the simplistic writing styles–it made everything feel wrong. This is a problem for those of us with advanced degrees taking this test. My suggestion for most would be to know the standards for math and dumb your thinking down when taking the other subtests.

  11. Alissa

    I have a masters degree in special education. I cannot find a job in Michigan where I currently live and wish to move back to Illinois to where I grew up. For the life of me, I can’t pass the math portion of the TAP! Like many others I am a older (43) and have lots of student loans to pay off. I have no idea what I should do now!

    • Alysha Jackson

      Crazy thing is that they only do loan forgiveness for certified teachers, craziness!

  12. Nichelle Stigger

    I too have the same issues as all of you. I have 4.0 in my program, high scores on my lessons that I have taught in the classroom. I have taken the TAP too many times passing the writing and the english portion. I also took the ACT thinking it might be better but only to score a 21. It’s a very hard situation to be in, I agree, we need to get together and make our voices heard. We are the ones who actually want to be in the classroom…so why don’t you let us IL?

  13. Alysha Jackson

    ACT composite score of 19 (14 years ago)
    ACT score this year of 19 (21 in writing)
    TAP taken twice, most recent scores of Reading 202 Math 221 English 232
    Graduating with BA in ECE this year, 3.8 GPA, only 3 B’s. And rest A’s in my courses, 11 years of experience working with children and families

  14. Rachel W.

    I’m taking the test in a few hours. I am freaking out because I have taken the practice tests and like some mentioned above, I only got 60% on the sections. I think it is ridiculous that a test should determine whether or not I am qualified to be a teacher. Especially, when I am already certified to teach in CA and CO. I am taking the ILTS tests because we will be moving to IL for my husbands job. I am confident that I could go and interview at a school and be hired- yet I wouldn’t be able to because I am not certified in IL. Why, because of a test. It is ridiculous and it is very stressful on those of us who worked so hard in school. Plus, I took 5 teaching tests in CA and 1 in CO and the one I took in CO is good in multiple states, but not IL of course.


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