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When a prospective teacher applies to the New Jersey Department of Education for certification, they must pass two sets of tests: one for basic skills and one for specific subjects, all issued by the Educational Testing Service. For instance, an aspiring kindergarten teacher would need to pass the basic skills tests and another for Early Childhood Content Knowledge. An aspiring chemistry teacher would have to pass the basic skills test and Chemistry Content Knowledge.
The New Jersey Education Association has been lobbying the Murphy Administration to eliminate the basic skills test, claiming it is a barrier to perfectly competent future educators.
Why shouldn’t we expect our K-12 teachers to pass basic skills tests?
According to Dr. Robert Goodman, head of the NJ Center for Teaching and Learning, “they dissuade potentially good educators from ever getting in front of a classroom” by nature of “language that seems deliberately obtuse, confusing, and absolutely boring.”
“Questions are not focused on basic literacy, but on terminology which may not even be understood by a professional who teaches English classes. The test does absolutely nothing to gauge the readiness of a Pre-K teacher – or even a high school teacher – of any subject other than, perhaps, Advanced Placement English. (And even then this test begs for refinement.
(Note: Goodman is a big fan of the subject-specific tests, called Praxis 11.)
So bully for NJEA! While the teacher shortages are overblown (they’re primarily in special education and STEM; also, lay-offs are coming soon to a district near you when all the federal emergency COVID money runs out in 2024 and we hit that fiscal cliff), why make applicants pass a test that doesn’t prove anything about their educational expertise? We’ve already eliminated that much-despised performance evaluation called edTPA. Why not extend that logic to basic skills tests?
NJEA has it right this time. Let’s listen.
Here is NJEA’s lobbying blast?
Last year, New Jersey eliminated the edTPA, a barrier to becoming a certified teacher. Now it’s time to eliminate another barrier: the basic skills test for teachers.
New Jersey requires that candidates for teacher certification pass a basic skills test, the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators: Reading, Writing and Math, or show SAT, ACT, or GRE scores in the top third percentile the year they were taken.
When the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) adopted changes to the administrative code around teacher certification, it missed an opportunity to eliminate this requirement, which created an unnecessary barrier to entering the profession.