The largest teachers union in the state, the New Jersey Education Association, has encouraged its members to persuade Gov. Phil Murphy to support a measure that would do away with the state’s basic skills exams for prospective teachers in arithmetic, reading, and writing.
A bipartisan legislation (S1553) was passed by the state Legislature in June that would permit candidates to obtain a preliminary teaching certificate without having to pass the subject area and basic skills tests. If they were able to teach successfully in a public school for four years, they would be granted a regular license.
Teachers are currently required to take the prerequisite subjects and basic skills exams for their specialty if they haven’t already placed in the top third on the SAT, ACT, or GRE for the year they took the test.
The union pointed out that the state Department of Education “missed an opportunity to eliminate this requirement, which created an unnecessary barrier to entering the profession” when it recently changed its requirements for teacher certification.
Social media users reacted negatively to the change; several people questioned the sense of decreasing standards in comments on the NJEA’s Nov. 8 Twitter post about the bill.
The bill’s author and chair of the Assembly Education Committee, state assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden, described it as “a common-sense measure that is in the best interest of our students.”
“We have responded to the call from the legislature to combat the biggest threat to our nation’s best public education system, which is the teacher shortage,” Lampitt stated. “I sincerely hope the governor will sign it.”
The Senate Education Committee chair and state senator from Monmouth, Vin Gopal, expressed his hope that the bill will pass.
“We have to make the path to becoming an educator as streamlined as possible, given the ongoing teacher shortage, and we have seen that good people are prevented from becoming educators by the outdated Praxis exam,” Gopal stated.
The exam is unnecessary given the state’s rigorous requirements for teachers, according to NJEA spokesperson Steven Baker. For teacher preparation programs, these include a grade point average requirement, a bachelor’s degree, and student teaching experience.
According to a wealth of research, “standardized tests are an inadequate means of assessing knowledge or skills, and not all individuals are best suited to demonstrate their knowledge and skills on standardized tests,” the man stated. “A single standardized test is the definition of redundant if they can pass both an accredited degree program and their student teaching requirements.”
In an additional effort to address New Jersey’s teacher shortage, the state did away with the EdTPA test requirement last year.
The fundamental skills examinations are “painful and laborious” and have no place in the classroom, according to a former state teacher of the year.
The tests discourage potentially excellent teachers from ever working in a classroom, which not only makes the state’s teacher shortage worse, according to Robert Goodman, executive director of the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning. He presented the example of a candidate who had completed a dissertation and a book chapter, but who nearly gave up on his teaching career after failing the basic skills writing exam eight times. He paid $810 in testing fees and passed on his ninth try.
Currently, 46 states employ a Praxis exam of some kind to evaluate the competence of prospective teachers.