On May 26, Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1220, “Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation,” to provide stipends to eligible student teachers for teacher training and remove the Praxis standardized test as the only way to prove mastery in teacher training and obtain licensure in Colorado. Associate Dean for Teacher Education and Undergraduate Experiences and Co-Interim Dean of the School of Education & Human Development Barbara Seidl and CU Denver’s legislative team were instrumental in promoting and supporting the bill’s introduction and passage.
The new law aligns with CU Denver’s 2030 strategic goal of becoming an equity-serving institution. “Removing Praxis is removing a piece of institutional racism and classicism,” Seidl says. “We have really skilled BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and first-generation students who did wonderfully in the field, wonderfully in courses, but struggled to pass Praxis and have taken the test 11 or 12 times. The bill also provides a scholarship or stipend for students who are taking the Praxis to offset the cost of taking the test multiple times.”
Creating alternatives to Praxis for teacher qualification is likewise a crucial step toward addressing Colorado’s shortage of qualified teachers. The bill calls for the departments of education and higher education to establish alternative methods for teacher qualification such as a combination of high grades on college coursework and portfolios that demonstrate an ability to plan and execute strong lessons and perform well during teaching.
The new law would also pay student teachers or residents stipends if they earn up to 200% of the current Pell grant limit. Starting in 2023-24, they would receive $11,000 for a 16-week residency and $22,000 for a 32-week residency. “Lots of our students have to work multiple jobs while they’re going to school and can’t really do that while they’re involved in student teaching or residency programs,” Seidl says. “Many drop out to try to raise money so they can come back and finish and risk never coming back. This law is a game changer to help economically vulnerable students pursue their dream of teaching.” Former SEHD Dean Rebecca Kantor was likewise a long-time advocate for efforts to mandate paying students for student teaching and residency training.
Seidl worked closely with Cindy Gutierrez, director of the Office of Partnerships & Clinical Teacher Education, and Suzanne Arnold, executive director of ASPIRE to Teach Alternative Licensure program to promote the bill. “Prior to passage of this legislation alternative licensure programs that allow someone with a BA to teach in a school while receiving teacher training and support required them to first pass Praxis,” Seidl says. The new law removes that barrier.