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Minnesota House votes to require teachers to pass basic skills test

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota teachers should know basic reading, writing and math skills before taking over classrooms declares a bill unanimously passed by the House Monday.

Current law gives new teachers three years to pass the basic skills test, allowing them to teach students during that time.

Before a 132-0 vote in favor of her bill, Rep. Andrea, R-Woodbury, said that "we all agree we need to raise the bar for teacher candidates."

"This bill addresses concerns that teacher candidates should not be allowed into the classroom prior to passing the basic skills exam," Kieffer said.

Besides requiring passing the test before teaching, it requires a tougher test than currently used. Kieffer said the test is at college sophomore level.

Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, said 67 percent pass the test on the first try.

Kieffer's bill requires teachers from other states to take the test before receiving a Minnesota license.

Representatives turned down an amendment that would have required students to pass the test before entering teacher training.

A similar bill is moving through the Senate.

Teacher performance

A Senate committee heard testimony about another education reform bill Monday. Teachers and witnesses came down on both sides of a bill that would allow schools to lay off teachers based on performance.

A committee vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

Current law bases layoffs on seniority.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said the seniority system does not make sense because "decisions to let teachers go are not based on their ability to teach a single class."

A similar House bill would make seniority only part of the criteria used in layoffs, while also including a teacher's subject matter and effectiveness.

Ten other states still limit layoff decisions to seniority.

Some teachers in the Senate meeting said it is more important to implement on-going teacher competency testing than the layoff bill.

"I believe this bill is an essential step in improving the performance of our teachers and school systems for the benefits of our students," said Rep. Branden Peterson, R-Andover, who authored the bill.

Davis is the Minnesota State Capitol Bureau correspondent for Forum Communications, which owns the Herald.