The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says an untapped pool of potential teachers could help to address the state’s severe teacher shortage. During today’s State Board of Education, Assistant Commissioner, Dr. Paul Katnik, said the untapped pool is people who have completed an accredited program but they missed the qualifying score on a certification exam by about one to four questions.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education building (Photo courtesy of Alisa Nelson)

According to Katnik, a slight change to the qualifying score on these exams could add over 550 certified teachers a year to the workforce. He pointed to the fall of 2021, when Missouri’s teacher shortage included at least 3,000 positions left unfilled or filled by individuals not appropriately certified.

Katnik asked the board to allow the department to grant teaching certificates to those test takers who did not pass by a few wrong answers.

“Of all school related factors that impact student learning, there’s absolutely none of them that has a bigger impact on students and their learning than the quality of the teacher and the quality of their teaching. All actions we consider must be weighed against trying to put as many students as we can with as many appropriately certified teachers as we can, and we believe the recommendation will do that,” said Katnik. “We would not make this recommendation if it would decrease the overall quality of teachers in Missouri’s classrooms. We estimate that around 200 of those 550 additional teachers would teach in a context in which they have the same children all day. For example, early childhood, conservatively estimating that these 200 teachers would average 18 students a day, this recommended change could impact 3,600 students. In addition, another 350 candidates are in grades 5-9, 9-12 or PreK-12, conservatively averaging 25 students a period for six periods a day could mean another 52,500 students would be impacted by this change.”

The State Board of Education approved the recommendation.

Under the plan, the tweak would apply at the beginning of this current test window. It would affect test takers that score within the -1 Standard Error of Measurement (SEM) range of the established qualifying score on all initial teacher certification exams.

“The qualifying score is not moving,” he said. “We’re not changing that standard -we’re just broadening the band around it because the science says on any given day I could score just below or just above.”

The change would not apply to Elementary Education certification exams because the board changed that qualifying test score to -2 in April.

“The potential for thousands of Missouri students to have a well-prepared appropriately-certified teacher considerably outweighs the minimal risk that would come from altering the qualifying score for all initial teacher certification exams except for elementary education,” said Katnik.

All teacher certification candidates must maintain a 3.0 GPA in their program coursework, including, in some cases, up to 50 hours in content classes.

Katnik says these newly-available teachers would be filling positions that have gone unfilled or will be replacing substitutes who have, for the most part, been prepared to replace a certified teacher for a day or two, not a school year.

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