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WV State Board of Education backs off exemption from basic teacher skills test

By Ryan Quinn

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Board of Education has backed off from a proposal to exempt education bachelor’s degree holders who meet minimum grade point averages from having to pass the basic knowledge test to become public school teachers.

The state school board proposed the exemption in September when it put that and other suggested changes to its Policy 5202 out for public comment. The board finally approved changes to Policy 5202 this week, but the proposed GPA exemption had been removed.

To be exempted from the basic knowledge PRAXIS test, which tests teachers’ skills in math and English language arts, a bachelor’s degree holder would’ve had to have at least a 3.5 cumulative GPA that included at least six semester hours of college-level English and six semester hours of college-level math, with at least a 3.0 GPA in each.

The board did follow through with its proposal to no longer require non-education master’s degree holders with five years of directly related work experience to pass a content knowledge test in the area in which they plan to teach.

Now, for example, someone who holds a master’s degree in biology won’t have to pass a PRAXIS content exam in biology to teach that subject. Michele Blatt, assistant state superintendent over the state Department of Education’s Division of Support and Accountability, said the teacher would still have to take a pedagogy exam for teaching.

And, if such a master’s degree holder doesn’t have an education degree, he or she still would have to go through the alternative certification program previously established through separate policy and state law.

Blatt said this alternative certification process includes coursework on things like classroom management.

The board also enacted its previous proposal to increase the valid period for teacher licensure tests and passing scores on those tests to 10 years from the date the candidate passed, up from a year “after completion of an approved program for licensure where the applicant was continuously enrolled.”

The enacted changes also say that if the board “has not altered either the required test or the passing score, the test and score shall remain valid beyond the ten-year period.”

Blatt told board members Thursday that there are several changes that county schools superintendents and “other stakeholder groups” would still like.

“This is Step One in increasing that flexibility,” she said of the policy. “We will continue to work with the board and with stakeholders to increase the flexibility.”

State Schools Superintendent Steve Paine had said the changes to Policy 5202 were to add more flexibility to help fill job positions without compromising quality.

Also Thursday, the board spent another roughly half hour in closed session for an unspecified “personnel matter.” This came after the board spent about an hour and a half in a closed session Wednesday that members claimed was allowable through exemptions to open meetings laws for personnel issues and attorney-client privilege.

After emerging from Wednesday’s closed session, board President Tom Campbell said the board still was seeking information on a personnel issue, and the board then approved its routine “personnel agenda,” an action that involves a single vote to OK hirings, salary adjustments and other things regarding multiple employees.

After Thursday’s closed session, the board ended its two-day meeting without further action.

Reach Ryan Quinn at [email protected],, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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