State-required teaching exam sparks debate amid national teacher shortage | WBAY
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – A national teacher shortage is affecting schools in our area, as well as impacting students studying to become teachers. A state-required exam, the ‘FORT’ or the Foundations of Reading Test, has become the center of discussion for many educators and students in the field.
The test was designed initially for those seeking reading specialist licenses, but became the industry standard in 2014 for all elementary teachers trying to earn their license.
Educators, like Samantha Meister, an assistant professor at the education program at UW-Green Bay, says some challenges for would-be teachers, are financial.
The exam costs $139, out-of-pocket each time it’s taken.
“This exam was never designed for initial licensure. It was designed as a reading specialist exam,” said Meister. “The cut score needed to pass is the exact same whether you’re getting your very first teaching license, or your reading specialist license. That standard we are holding people to is exactly the same. We think about ways to make this more equitable and more accessible to our beginning teachers; I think a real conversation could be had about a varying cut score for initial teachers.”
Another proposed change being discussed is an alternative of allowing applicants to show their work through a portfolio instead.
“The legislature has shown a little bit of latitude in allowing folks in special education program to demonstrate that same competency through a portfolio system,” said Reid Riggles the Associate Professor of Education and Director of Licensing at St. Norbert College. “We’re kind of hoping they will show that same grace and flexibility for elementary programs, but so far they have not.”
Some people in the reading sector of education are against making changes to the exam.
“We haven’t eliminated the criteria. We haven’t made it easier to be a teacher. We just been more flexible in how you demonstrate the criteria. The FORT seems to be the one sticking point,” said Reid Riggles.
While there continues to be disagreements about the test, educators say they hope to work alongside the Department of Instruction and advance those conversations.