Starting next year, graduates of Iowa’s teacher preparation programs will have to pass exams with a minimum score to get a license to teach. The requirement is part of the education reform package that passed the 2012 Iowa legislature.

Prospective teachers will take one exam on the subject they hope to teach and another to see if they have the skills to teach a classroom of kids. Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, says students will only have to score better than at least 25 percent of those who take the test.

 “Clearly this is a minimum standard and one that all teachers in Iowa can and should be able to pass before they are entrusted with educating our children,” Glass says.

Iowa is one of the last states to require testing of new teachers, but the move has critics, like current college students who say the exams are being sprung on them. Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says he’s received over 200 emails on the topic.

“They’re seniors in college and haven’t prepared for that and that’s a problem,” Horn says. Horn says they’re also concerned about the cost of the exams, which is in the range of $200. Glass says a delay is not the right option.

“Every year that we would delay enforcement or enactment of the law would be another year that we potentially put unqualified people into teaching roles in the state,” Glass says. “Our priority has to lie with the students, the children in our schools.”

This new requirement for prospective teachers got the go-ahead yesterday from a legislative committee that reviews state agency rules and procedures. It means this spring’s college graduates in Iowa will have to take the exams to get a teaching license.