Why have standardized tests?
The Praxis tests are one of the hundreds of standardized tests used by a variety of professions. Many individuals have been exposed to at least one standardized test long before reaching the college level. For example, when Congress passed Public Law 107-110 in 2001, it introduced the No Child Left Behind Act. Subsequently, in 2015, the government replaced that law with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The law relegated the accountability for educational standards from the feds to the states. Under the law, states continued administering standard annual tests from third to eighth grades.
Therefore standardize tests are ubiquitous. There are standard admission tests for dental, law, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, veterinary, armed services, and health professions schools. Teaching joins the ranks of having a test administered to all who want to enter the profession.
Up until September 1, 2014, the Praxis I or Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST) consisted of three exams covering reading, writing, and mathematics. Many states required that teachers pass the test before receiving their certification. Individuals could take the tests on a computer or in paper form. There was also the choice of one four and a half-hour sitting or two two-hour sessions for the computer format. Taking the paper test involved three separate tests. You had the option to take them separately or in one day.
The math and reading were multiple-choice questions. The writing exam had the same format, except it also included an essay. You received a point for each correct answer on all the multiple-choice questions with a scoring range from 100-200. The median score in 2008, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS), was 175 in writing, 178 in reading, and 179 in math. Each state, which required Praxis I tests, adopted their passing score. Some states had a passing grade of 127, and others had 177.
One similarity between the Praxis I and II is that both had three components. The three types of Praxis II tests consisted of:
Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT): The purpose of this exam was to test a teacher’s pedagogical knowledge for different levels. These were early childhood, kindergarten to 6th grade, 5th through 9th, or 7th grade to 12th. The test measured a teacher’s understanding of the processes and practices to promote successful academic achievement in the students.
Teaching Foundation: The test expanded on pedagogy in five principal subject areas: English, language arts, science, math, and social studies. Social studies, for example, focused on an understanding of U.S. and world history, geography, economics, sociology, anthropology, and more.
Subject Assessments: As the name implies, these tests measured teachers’ knowledge in a host of different subjects. The purpose was to ensure that a teacher was qualified to teach a particular topic. For example, is the math teacher competent in algebra, calculus, geometry, probability, and statistics?
Evolution of Praxis I and II
The Core Academic Skills for Educators (Core) replaced the Praxis I. Similarly, the Praxis II changed to the Subject Assessments tests.
The Core took most of the attributes of the Praxis I. The three components of reading, writing, and math, remained. The multiple-choice questions exist in the new tests; a difference is in the essay question. The Core now has two essay questions instead of one; each one had a thirty-minute time limit. The test format changed – there is no paper-form, only computer testing at approved test centers around the nation.
The function of the Subject Assessments didn’t change. The tests covered a range of subjects, from agriculture to world languages. Teachers could prepare for each test by reading a free study companion and study plan for each subject. ETS also offers interactive practice tests for a nominal fee of $19.95 each.
Another difference is the cost of the test fees. The ETS charges $150 for all three Core Academic Skills tests (reading, writing, and math). Conversely, you must pay for each test with the Subject Assessments. The test fees range from a low of $60 to $160. The lower price is for Elementary Education Science or Social Studies, whereas the higher cost refers to Chinese-Mandarin in World Languages. The majority are $120 per test.
One noteworthy point for either test is to check with your state’s requirements. A select number does not require the Praxis tests. Some states also have additional requirements before earning teaching certification and licensure. This link to the ETS site provides details for each state.