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Repeal of Teacher-Testing Law Thwarted in Arkansas Senate

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The Arkansas Senate this month defeated, 20 to 14, a bill that would have repealed the state's controversial teacher-testing law.

The bill, which would have replaced the testing requirements with a more elaborate evaluation scheme, had been approved by the House, 67 to 31.

The defeated bill, which was supported by the Arkansas Education Association, would have required: prospective teachers to pass tests before entering college and again before obtaining certificates; education-school faculty to teach periodically in local schools to keep them in touch with classroom practices; each teacher in the state to develop a professional-improvement plan; teachers to complete six college credits or inservice hours before recertification; and multiple classroom evaluations of teachers during the school year.

Further Action Pledged

In the wake of the bill's defeat, the aea--which as of last week was awaiting a court decision in its lawsuit against the teacher-testing bill--promised further legal action.

The testing program, initiated by Gov. Bill Clinton and approved by the legislature in a special session in 1983, requires that all certified personnel--both teachers and administrators--take the Arkansas Educational Skills Assessment test this school year. It further requires that all certified personnel take a subject-matter test or complete six college credits by 1987.

According to Peggy Nabors, aea president, the organization "didn't challenge the law for any other reason than we think it's professionally flawed. It is not right and it is not done in any other profession. After 20 years of a successful career, you don't go back and give a test to doctors, lawyers, nurses, real-estate brokers, cosmetologists, or any other group that is licensed."

Ms. Nabors said the testing law "created a separate class of citizenry" and violated constitutional equal-protection guarantees by not including private-school teachers, future teachers, or teachers who were unemployed or on a leave of absence during the 1984-85 school year.

Prospects Dimmed

But the union's prospects for success in that lawsuit were dimmed two weeks ago when the legislature passed a law specifying that those categories of certified personnel are also required to meet the provisions of the law.

But the clarifying law, Ms. Nabors said, is also vulnerable to challenge on the grounds that it creates a separate class of citizenry. The state-supported remedial program for certified personnel who fail the test the first time around is specified for public-school teachers--and not those in private schools, Ms. Nabors noted.

Though the association contends that "any number of lawsuits" will be generated by the new law and by the test itself, which is due to be administered this week, the Governor has said he will veto any bill that attempts to repeal the testing requirement.--lck

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