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Teacher Shortage, Act 55 Waived

Earlier this summer, the Pennsylvania state legislature waived one of the requirements for Pennsylvania students to become educators.

The legislature made the decision amid the teacher shortage crisis in hopes to bring more educators back to the classroom in the coming years.

The decision was part of Act 55 and waives the basic skills requirement that students must pass until the year 2025.

Now the question is whether the waived requirement will attract more teachers to the classroom or not.

Officials from the Ferndale School District say that the decision is a step in the right direction.

In July, the PA state legislature waived the requirement that aspiring teachers have to pass basic skill tests in math, reading, or writing in order to lead a classroom.

“I think that the waiving of that requirement is a win for students, it’s a win for future teachers,” said Dr. William Brotz, Ferndale’s Director of Education.

Dr. Brotz and Jeff Boyer, the school’s superintendent agree the basic skills test does not represent who will be or won’t be a good teacher.

“There is no demonstration, there is nothing in that exam that I can see that is going to show whether you can touch the lives of students or reach students the way teachers can,” Boyer said.

A reading aide at Ferndale Elementary School also agrees and says that she struggled taking the basic skills test and changed her major because of it.

“It made me feel really bad about myself because I should know how to do this, and it was really just dissuading me from thinking is this really what I want to do. If I can’t do this myself, how am I going to be able to teach a student,”

Balmer says there was a lot of anxiety surrounding the required skills tests.

“When it came time for me to take those PAPA tests, there was trigonometry, there was stuff about calculus on there and I never took any of those kinds of classes. And I think I took the math one at least three or four times.”

Balmer said she noticed herself and other education majors become discouraged after failing and then searching for a different career path instead.

“I just decided to switch my major because that was a lot of money that I had to pay to do it and it just wasn’t worth the time and the money to go into it when I knew there was going to be stuff on there that I wasn’t going to know how to do.”

Balmer switched her major to English, with a minor in childhood education, but believes waiving this requirement will help the teacher shortage crisis.

“I think it’s going to encourage more people to want to go into education and it’s going to encourage those that have the good intentions to want to actually help kids.”

This waived requirement will be in effect for at least the next three years, giving officials time to study whether these tests really do improve the quality of teaching or not.


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