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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.

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