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Should Immersion Teachers Get More Time to Pass Basic Skills Tests?

Some state legislators and parents believe immersion teachers should have more time to pass the required test in English. What do you think?

Last February, a new state law requiring all public school teachers to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Basic Skills Test took effect.

The teacher licensing exams are currently only offered in English.

Parents of immersion students were concerned that the level of English proficiency required for the test is not basic and goes beyond conversational English.

Before the new law, public school teachers were already required to take the basic skills test but did not have to pass before they began teaching. Under the old law, would-be teachers who failed the test– as about 30 percent did– could get a three-year provisional license that allowed them to teach while trying to get a passing score.

"We hold our immersion teachers to the same high standards for hiring that we hold for our English teachers, but we do not expect nor want them to be teaching in English," wrote a concerned Minnetonka parent. "Our model is proving very effective, and we don’t want it negatively impacted.

A new bill giving immersion teachers an additional 36 months to pass the test, written by Minnetonka's Sen. Terri Bonoff and Rep. Yvonne Selcer, passed through the Education Policy committee last week without debate. 

"These teachers, who are recruited from their native countries to teach our immersion students in their native language, are forced to pass a rigorous test in English," said Sen. Bonnoff. "Their classroom language expectations demand little English. Yet we place the burdensome requirement on them to pass a test in a language they have yet to master."

Should immersion teachers should have more time to pass the test? Why or why not? Please tell us why below.

Amy Morsman February 26, 2013 at 02:45 AM
They should be competent in the language in which they are teaching. If some are insisting on a skills test, have them take it in their language of instruction. That's what English teachers do.
Heyitsme February 26, 2013 at 07:50 PM
This is not fair. They are teachers in an predominately English speaking country. Why should their qualifications be any less than another teacher? Do students get cut breaks like this with their proficiency exams in public school?
Womanhearmeroar February 26, 2013 at 08:34 PM
It would be like a teacher in China from the US being expected to pass their test in Chinese when they are over there teaching English only. It is the same thing here. It should be a no brainer that either the test be given in Chinese, Spanish, French, etc, or they should have an extension in order to pass it. The immersion teachers are not teaching English nor even allowed to speak it in the classrooms to the students. A para or social worker comes in if English needs to be spoken. Offering immersion in our schools is huge, if we expect to compete with the rest of the world!
Melissa Richards de Campana March 01, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Having been an immersion teacher for 18 years I know just how important this issue is. It has affected the lives of MANY friends of mine. The teachers who arrive in the US recruited to teach in Immersion Schools must already possess a license in their home country and most of them have very rigorous standards. Then, they arrive here to teach in their native language, and are expected to just "pick up English" from friends, neighbors, tv? As a new US teacher most of them spend MANY hours at their schools, planning, learning new teaching methods and US standards, as well as adjusting to the culture. During their first years there is VERY little time for them to sign up for English classes, and even if they did, and learned conversational English, it wouldn't be enough to pass this test. There are MANY native English speakers who can't pass the test, even after multiple tries. It is asking a lot of these teachers to not only learn a language they won't use 5 days a week for 8 hours a day, just to pass a test that will give them permission to continue teaching in a different language. Make sense? Not to me! If we want our children exposed to diversity and the richness of other cultures we NEED these foreign born teachers to be on our team, yet we make them feel "welcomed" by requiring they pass this test. NO WAY! What is 36 months? 3 years. Could you go to Japan or Russia and work full time, speaking English, and learn enough language to pass a language test?
Melissa Richards de Campana March 01, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Actually, if they are speakers of a language other than English they are given additional time to take the tests. It's given because it's only fair!

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