The problem of Having Too Much Potential for Teaching

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Amy Peterson is a rising senior at Loyola University majoring in biology. She co-founded the first chapter of Students For Education Reform in Illinois, and currently acts as the Chapter Leader. She comments on yesterday's decision by the Illinois State Board of Education to maintain recently increased cut-scores on the basic skills test used for admission to teacher preparation programs.

I wanted to be a teacher too!...Until I realized I Had More Potential.

As a biology major at Loyola University, I don't meet many students interested in a career as a K-12 teacher. Whenever a peer discovers my interest in science education, our conversation usually ends with a comment such as, "I wanted to be a teacher too, but then I realized I Had More Potential."

These high-powered students dream of medical school, dental school, or graduate school. What if they aspired to be teachers instead?

In 2010 the Illinois State Board of Education raised the passing requirements for the basic skills test required for admission to any teacher preparation program. When I took the test in November 2011, I found the new higher standards completely reasonable, and passed on my first try. Nonetheless, passing rates dropped across the board, especially among minority teacher candidates.  There has been strong push-back to lower the cut-scores to remedy this problem.

Yesterday the board revisited the cut-score issue and decided to maintain them.  I think this is the right decision.  Nobody, including me, wants to see less diversity among teacher candidates. But the key to increasing diversity is to develop a plan to create a pipeline of diverse teaching talent that reflects the diverse student body in Illinois. That plan's success depends on having teaching become a more attractive career choice for the highly talented diverse candidates who can write their ticket professionally, candidates who will only be attracted to teaching if academic standards rise, not fall. Beyond that, Illinois must keep its teacher preparation standards high in order to complement the rising expectations for performance of Illinois' students.

Among the students I've talked to who possess Too Much Potential for Teaching is a male African-American and a female Muslim. Perhaps if academic standards in the teaching profession had been raised earlier, they would now be studying for the admissions test for a teacher preparation program rather than one for medical school.

Amy Peterson