DECATUR — Prospective teachers studying at Millikin University face a challenge.
Students must past the Test of Academic Proficiency, which has replaced the Illinois Test of Basic Skills, and they must pass it before they can proceed in an education major. They are allowed five attempts.
“If you don’t (pass) after five tries, you have to make other career plans,” said Hannah Shatinksy, who is spending the week in a workshop at Millikin to help her with passing that test. She’ll be a junior in the fall.
Newly graduated education majors in Illinois must pass the test to obtain an initial teaching certificate, said Nancy Gaylen, director of the school of education at Millikin. If students wait until graduation and then can’t pass the test and use up their five attempts, they can’t become a teacher and it’s too late to change majors.
“What we’re finding is students who need assistance in passing the test,” Gaylen said. “What we don’t want them to do is wait for sophomore, junior or senior year then almost all of college is behind them and they have to change their major. We’re being extremely proactive and starting to tell parents as well as students when they first come to preview days.”
The best time to take the test is while the student is still in high school, Gaylen said, when the material on the test is what they’re immersed in every day, and not after some has faded from memory. The results are good for five years, so a senior in high school who passes the TAP can use those results after college graduation.
The workshop sponsored by Millikin isn’t just a week of cramming for TAP, however. The students also spent time in active bonding activities, such as the teams course at Rock Springs Center, run by Performance Development Network. Obstacles and activities on the course require the entire group’s participation for success, which teaches teamwork, cooperation and trust.
Facilitator John Schirle told his group they were there to learn five things: Communication, respect, encouragement, safety and trust.
Rebecca Johnson, a senior who plans to be a music teacher, has already passed the TAP and attended the workshop as a mentor to younger students. The teams course, she said, helps students learn to cooperate with colleagues, something teachers do constantly.
“What I have learned from my background is that when you’re going to tackle something difficult, you need to come together as a team and you also need to know inside yourself that you can accomplish greater things than you think,” Gaylen said. “(The students) arrived as individuals and left as a team. That was evident in the change in their behavior.”