Header, the Administration of the Honorable Lincoln C. Almond
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July 1, 1999

TO THE HONORABLE, THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

In accordance with the provisions of R.I., Gen. Laws § 43-1-4, I am transmitting herewith, with my disapproval, 99-H-6092, Substitute A, As Amended, "An Act Relating to Education - Certification of Teachers."

This bill would provide a required procedure for new teachers who have failed to pass the written competency test given to all prospective teachers. The bill would specifically require that the teacher meet annually for three years with the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education or the Commissioner's designee and submit credentials, an individual professional development plan, and a job performance evaluation. These provisions would replace the current requirement that teachers who fail to pass the competency test "undergo a successful job performance review, based on criteria established by the board of regents, annually for three (3) years."

I am vetoing this bill because it fails to confront the basic issue that teachers should be required to pass a competency test before entering the classroom. Instead, the bill seeks to impose on teachers failing the test some minimal new requirements that will not bar unqualified teachers and that can be imposed whether or not this bill is enacted.

I strongly believe that teachers should pass a basic competency test in order to be certified to teach in Rhode Island, as in many, if not most states. In fact, prior to 1991, Rhode Island required new teachers to pass the National Teaching Examination (NTE) in order to be certified to teach. During the 1991 legislative session, the General Assembly amended the law to allow teachers failing the NTE exam to gain teacher certification. The legislation required that the Department of Education continue to administer the NTE test, but a candidate could not be denied certification solely based on the failed test. Legislation was introduced this year at my request to repeal the 1991 provision, thereby reinstating the requirement of a passing score on a competency test.

Our State has taken many positive steps over the last few years to improve our public schools. Perhaps the most critical aspect of school reform is the enhancement of teacher preparation, certification, and evaluation. Especially given the new challenges presented by a much more diverse community of students, we must ensure that we have well-qualified, well-trained teachers in our classrooms. In order to achieve this goal, we should be willing to take strong action to keep unqualified individuals from entering the teaching profession by requiring successful completion of a basic competency test. Rhode Island requires competency tests as a requirement for entering many professions, from lawyers and doctors, to real estate agents, plumbers, and hairdressers. Why are we not willing to require a competency test for those individuals who have the essential responsibility of educating our children?

The bill avoids this critical issue, and instead provides that those failing the competency test meet with a department official and submit certain information. These requirements will likely do little to exclude unqualified individuals from the teaching profession. The bill does not even require that these individuals retake the examination. Moreover, the bill is wholly unnecessary since the Department, without legislation, could impose the requirements contained in the bill by virtue of its power under current law to establish annual review criteria for those teachers who fail the competency test. The Department also has broad regulatory powers over the licensing and certification of teachers.

My primary goals for the children of Rhode Island are that all children enter school ready to learn and all youth leave school prepared to lead productive lives. We have worked in partnership to make great progress toward these goals. However, this legislation unfortunately continues a practice that does not benefit our children.

For the foregoing reasons, I disapprove of this legislation and respectfully urge your support of this veto.


Sincerely,

Lincoln Almond
Governor