BEMIDJI (WCCO) — A successful college student blames a testing company for keeping him from his dream of becoming a teacher.

Alex White goes to school at Bemidji State. For years, he’s used special technology in the classroom to overcome a disability, but he has been told he can’t use it for his most important test yet.

The gym has served as a classroom for White. He’s a junior in college and studying to be a Physical Education teacher.

White has good grades in school, but trouble with one particular test: The writing portion of the Pearson Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examination.

“Once I passed the math, passed the reading, it motivated me, but the writing I was still falling short,” said White.

In class and on tests, White is allowed to use a voice-assisted software program, which the school signed off on. White has aphasia, which is a learning disability that affects language and writing in certain situations.

“There’s good days where I’m fluent and it comes flowing (and) bad days where everything comes out choppy,” White said.

He didn’t use the computer to pass the first two parts, but has tried three times to pass the last.

Even after his professors wrote letters praising his potential and appealing to Pearson repeatedly, the company still says he can’t test with the technology.

“It’s a pen for him,” said White’s mother. “It’s a speller for him, but that’s part of his disability.”

White’s mother and father are both teachers and say they know the exceptions the education system calls for.

White says he’ll keep pushing, speak up for other kids with disabilities and do whatever it takes to be able to one day call himself a teacher.

Pearson, the company that oversees the exam for Minnesota teachers, has not responded to calls for comment.

In the past, Pearson has said using the technology quote “fundamentally alters the measurement of the skills the examination is intended to test.”

White has filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Justice for discrimination. It will investigate to decide if Pearson has done anything wrong.

Liz Collin

Comments (3)
  1. Rob Swart says:

    Wait until he finds out his biggest disabilty to becomming a teacher is his gender. Men now have less than a 10% chance of getting a teaching job in MN.

  2. gtV says:

    When we find a person who has overcome very difficult challenges to his life’s goals and taken his disability beyond what what was thought possible, we find society’s rules putting him down. So what if he uses technology in the simplest ways to help him take his tests to become certified a teacher!

    It sounds like he has the smarts, the desires, and motivation to be a great teacher in the areas he wants to instructs. If his parents who are teachers, the instructors or professors who taught him, and those who know him say and have have shown he exceeds the qualifications and will make a dynamic educator then why hold him back?

    Isn’t it discriminatory to hold back this person, with an over comable disability, can pass his certification testing with a simple assist from the technology that makes life better for all of us? Funny how someone who desires to be and can pass very difficult hurdles in his attaining his career goals is held back when there are those who do easily get through and pass the system turn out to be dud teachers? Some thing is wrong in the education system when this happens.

    There are precedents for this case and Minnesota had better see the light of enlightened education by those who made great strides in overcoming difficult disabilities!