Basic Skills Test changes greatly reduce passing rate

By Amy Wywialowski/Staff Reporter

The number of students who passed the Basic Skills Test has decreased 57 percent since scoring changes were made to the test in 2010.

Doug Bower, associate dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, said the test itself did not change much, but the State Board of Education changed what scores are considered passing.

“Prior to this change about 90 percent of students passed, now only about 33 percent do,” Bower said. “They need at least an 80 percent in each of the subtests to pass.”

Along with these changes, students can take the test a maximum of five times in their lifetime if they hope to be a teacher in Illinois.

Education majors make up 35 percent of Eastern students, and these students need to pass this test to be able to take many of their teacher certification classes.

Stephen Lucas, the chair of the secondary education and foundations department, said the changes in the Basic Skills Test have contributed to decreased enrollment.

“Enrollment has been down because of the job market as well as this hurdle,” Lucas said. “Our general methods courses are down 40 percent enrollment from 2009, and we’ve had to drop sections and have some small sections as well.”

The Basic Skills Test will be Nov. 12 and students must register to take the test no later than Nov. 8.

“We’re providing a lot of new workshops, tutoring sessions, student-led tutorials, computer software as well as final prep. Students should plan to study about 7 to 10 hours a week,” Bower said.

Two of the new offerings include study groups and one-on-one consultations to set up a study plan.

Lucas said the student lead drop-in programs are often less intimidating to students and some students feel they can learn better from a fellow student instead of a faculty member.

Lucas said the department is also offering faculty-lead sessions.

Bower said these study groups can help provide a sense of community to help students work through their test anxiety and help one another.

Another resource is the one-on-one consultations to help students plan their study schedules.

Sharon Kim, a first year graduate student who works with Bower, conducts these consultations.

“I’ve had three students come in so far and they seemed to appreciate it,” Kim said. “I plan according to their schedules; I think knowing what they can and cannot go to helps.”

Although these changes have made it more difficult for students, both Bower and Lucas agree the changes were necessary.

“The state made these changes for a variety of reasons including the perception that teaching is an ‘easy’ profession,” Bower said. “If we want higher quality teachers, we need higher standards.”

Lucas said he is encouraging students to take the test as soon as they can, as either a freshman or even when they are still in high school.

“The test is similar to the ACT but it is still different,” Lucas said. “It is geared to information we expect students to have before college.”

Bower said one of the issues they are struggling to understand is that students who had good ACT scores are not doing as well as expected on this test.

“Many students struggle to remember the math formulas; they are not something we use every day in college,” Kim said.

Bower said the test is by no means impossible and students just need to think differently about it.

“They cannot just show up Saturday morning after doing their Friday night thing and expect to do well,” Bower said. “This is not just a College of Education initiative; it is an Eastern initiative and all the deans are on board as well as the Provost.”

More information about the Basic Skills Test programs can be found at http://www.eiu.edu/ceps/basicskills.php or email Sharon Kim at sykim@eiu.edu to schedule a one-on-one consultation.

Amy Wywialowski can be reached at 581-7942 alwywialowski@eiu.edu.

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