When schools were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, teacher-candidates were confused. How would they finish their student-teaching requirements? How could they still take their licensing and certification exams? Would they make it to a classroom in the fall?
Many states, concerned about a disruption to the teacher pipeline at a time when many school districts can’t find enough qualified teachers in perennial shortage areas, issued guidance waiving or adjusting some requirements. Some states announced that they will grant a one-year provisional teaching license to candidates who were not able to take their certification tests.
Testing vendors, such as the Educational Testing Service, are also trying to make adjustments to address those challenges. The latest development comes around the Praxis teacher-licensing exam.
Passing the Praxis exam is a requirement to be a teacher in about half of states, and the test is administered in a strictly controlled and timed environment. Testing centers are now closed—but starting in mid-May, teacher-candidates will be able to take a Praxis exam at home or another secure location, ETS spokeswoman Alescia Dingle said in an email.
“Praxis at Home will offer teacher-candidates the same test and is supported by the same services as the tests offered in test centers,” she said. “The only difference is that the solution is proctored remotely by a trained specialist by our collaborator Proctor U. ETS is working closely with Proctor U to ensure that the tests meet our high standards of accuracy and security.”
ETS will start off by offering the most frequently taken tests and then will increase the offerings over the spring, Dingle said. In addition to the three Praxis core exams—mathematics, reading, and writing—there are dozens of subject assessments.
“At this time, our priority is to serve teacher-candidates so that they can earn their certifications and be ready for the classroom this fall,” she said.
Meanwhile, edTPA, a performance-based licensing test required by teacher-preparation programs in 18 states, added two summer submission dates. Candidates typically have 18 months from the time of registration to prepare and submit a finalized portfolio, but Pearson, which administers the test, has said any candidate who registered before April 6 now has until Dec. 5, 2021 to submit.
The edTPA portfolio is meant to be developed over several weeks of student-teaching, so candidates who had not finished the requirements before schools shut down were worried that they would be stuck. But candidates who are finishing their student-teaching assignments online can now request to submit their portfolio via edTPA’s alternative “virtual learning environment” option.
Barriers for Aspiring Teachers
More details on Praxis at Home are still forthcoming, and state policymakers have not yet decided how this option will fit into their guidance for teacher-candidates. Still, some experts have raised concerns.
The licensing exam has long been criticized for keeping people of color out of the teaching profession. An ETS analysis has found that candidates of color are significantly more likely to fail the Praxis exams than white candidates.
And a remote version of the test could create even more barriers for aspiring teachers, said Dan Weisberg, the chief executive officer of TNTP, an organization focused on teacher quality. Not all adults have internet access at home, he said, and the cost of the tests themselves are “not an insignificant expense” in normal times—but especially now that prospective teachers or their family members might have lost their jobs.
“The ability to become a teacher shouldn’t depend on the size of your checking account,” he said.
Normally, Praxis exams range from $60 to $170. It’s not yet clear if the home tests will cost the same amount. (ETS has given candidates a 30 percent discount on practice Praxis tests during the pandemic.)
“Rather than figuring out how to jerry-rig a status quo system, let’s figure out something that’s better,” Weisberg said.
Image: Cecilie Arcurs/E+/Getty
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.