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E.T.S. Unveils 3-Stage Assessment Package For Licensing New Teachers

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The Educational Testing Service last week unveiled its new, three-part package of assessments for states to use in licensing teachers.

The new tests, called The Praxis Series: Professional Assessments for Beginning Teachers, will replace the N.T.E., once known as the National Teacher Examinations, over the next five years, company officials said. The N.T.E., a basic-skills test, is used by 33 states.

Prospective teachers will begin taking the first two parts of the Praxis series next fall in several states.

Catherine Havrilesky, the executive director of the E.T.S.'s teacher programs and services, said every state now using the N.T.E. has met with the company about the new assessments, and none has said "we are not interested.''

The Praxis series is designed to assess skills at different stages in a new teacher's progress.

The first component, Praxis I, is a basic-skills test in reading, writing, and mathematics that candidates can take either on a computer or in paper-and-pencil format.

This part of the assessment package is designed to be administered to sophomores in college who are considering becoming teachers, company officials said.

It also includes a computer-based brush-up course, called "Learning Plus,'' for candidates who need to improve their skills.

Gregory R. Anrig, the president of the E.T.S., said candidates who want to take the test on a computer could do so on their college campus, at an E.T.S. field office, or at a Sylvan Learning Center.

The computerized format allows candidates to get instant feedback on their scores.

'Radically Different' Assessment

Praxis II is designed to test prospective teachers' knowledge of their chosen fields as they finish their college educations.

Each of the assessments--in art, chemistry, French, mathematics, physical education, Spanish, biology, elementary education, general sciences, music, physics, social studies, physical sciences, and English language, literature, and composition--includes a core multiple-choice test.

To provide states with flexibility, the Praxis II assessments also include optional "modules'' that require candidates to write essays on topics that are difficult to test with multiple-choice questions.

The elementary-education assessment, for example, includes a two-hour multiple-choice test and an optional, two-hour "performance assessment'' that asks the candidate to write four 30-minute essays.

A sample essay question asks the candidate to analyze writing samples produced by a 2nd grader and suggest how the student's skills could be improved.

The final stage, Praxis III, is a training program for assessors who observe new teachers' performance in the classroom during their first year on the job. It combines written documentation, interviews with the teacher, and in-class observations.

The testing company has been working with California, Delaware, and Minnesota on the third leg of the series, officials said.

Mr. Anrig said the new assessments are "radically different'' from the N.T.E. because they offer candidates feedback and help in upgrading their skills, are based on a national job analysis of teaching conducted by the E.T.S. and provide states with greater flexibility.

He added that the E.T.S. is keeping an eye on the standards-setting project for beginning teachers being conducted by the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium and that he believes the Praxis tests will complement that effort. (See related story, page 1.)

E.T.S. officials also said the new assessments are more "culturally responsive'' than the N.T.E., which has been criticized as a barrier to minority teachers.

But FairTest, a watchdog group that has been critical of the N.T.E., last week called the Praxis series a "repackaging of current E.T.S. exams.'' Praxis III, it said, may be the series' only real innovation.

E.T.S. officials, however, said the new tests are based on extensive research and involvement of teachers nationwide, including many members of minority groups.

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