Board of Trustees learn about test failures

By Kelly Bauer & James Green

The Board of Trustees reviewed how NIU is helping its students pass the Test of Academic Proficiency, which the state requires would-be teaching students to pass, at its meeting Thursday.

The board also approved the purchase of a coach bus, talked about pensions and voted not to release executive session minutes from the last fiscal year.

Test of Academic Proficiency

Passing the state’s Test of Academic Proficiency is a requirement for students who wish to enter a teaching licensure program. According to a report presented at the board’s meeting, only 62 percent — or 770 — of NIU students passed the test during 2012-13.

That number has risen since the year before, when 42 percent — or 718 — students passed, and from 2010-11, when 39 percent — or 588 — students passed. The test was revised that year, which led to a drop in passing grades; before then, in 2009-10, 88 percent of test takers had passed at NIU.

The presentation was given by La Vonne Neal, dean of the College of Education, and Jenny Parker, associate vice provost for Educator Licensure and Preparation.

John Butler, Board of Trustees chair, said when he first saw the numbers he was surprised and wanted to hear from Neal and Parker and see how the university can work with the state on the test.

Parker said NIU provides students taking the test with workshops, preparation courses and opportunities to meet with tutors, among other things.

Butler said he is confident Baker will meet with legislators to work to make the revised test

more accessible.


Administration Vice President Steve Cunningham spoke to the board about what NIU is doing in relation to pensions, as the state passed a reform bill that will cut benefits and raises the minimum retirement age for faculty and staff. Cunningham said this will have “very serious effects” and long-term effects for NIU.

Cunningham said NIU is “not where we want to be on this,” as the university opposed the bill. He

said the next step for the bill will “invariably” include a contest in court, as the bill’s constitutionality has been questioned.

Bus purchase

The Board of Trustees approved the purchase of a used wheelchair-accessible 56-passenger bus, which will replace a smaller vehicle that has been in use since 1989. This type of vehicle typically lasts between 18 and 20 years, and the “new” bus is predicted to cost about $275,000.

Of passengers serviced by Transportation Services, 90 percent are students, 40 percent are affiliated with academic departments and 35 percent are with Intercollegiate Athletics. The remainder is

attributed to other uses, such as club sports, conferences and

cultural events.

Aside from NIU, there are no other charter bus service

providers in the area. The nearest alternatives are in Rochelle,

Rockford and Morrison.

Other business

The board unanimously voted not to release minutes from the executive sessions it held during the last fiscal year.

The decision was made based on the recommendation of General Counsel Jerry Blakemore, who said the minutes related to personnel.

Executive sessions are private, but their minutes may be made public based on the Illinois Open Meetings Act, which “requires public bodies to review minutes of their executive sessions on a semiannual basis and determine what parts of such minutes they should make available to the public because they no longer require confidential treatment to either protect the public interest or the privacy of the individual.”