Teresa Taylor — Staff Writer
On June 13, 2022, Governor Kim Reyolds signed a bill eliminating the Praxis test from Iowan education majors’ four-year plans. Prior to the revision, aspiring teachers completed the Praxis before applying for their teaching licenses. Without the test, education majors in the state simply must complete their college or university’s education program.
“As a program, one of our long-term things is always: How do we assess content knowledge? How do we assess pedagogical knowledge?” education professor Abby De Groot said. “Right now, we feel okay, for sure, about our pedagogical content because our students didn’t typically struggle with that test. Some of our elementary students, for example, do struggle with some content knowledge.”
In response to the bill, the education department is assessing its internal checks to ensure students will be prepared to teach without the approval of the $120-180 test.
“Our program assessment involves a lot of the actual work of teaching, and we build that in throughout the program: you have field experiences, the fact that you culminate your program with a semester-long internship in student teaching,” education professor David Mulder said. “That’s where you really demonstrate your proficiency and your ability to do the work of teaching. Our assessment system is built around that, so do we need to have some kind of external affirmation of your ability to teach? I don’t think it’s as important as it once was.”
Though Mulder sees the benefit to an outside set of eyes on Dordt education graduates, he does not believe a standardized test is the most effective measure. Filling in bubbles on a multiple-choice test cannot capture the essence of a student’s teaching practice. Lisa Mouw, another education professor, agreed.
“It was used as the measure, and that’s where it was problematic. We find the same thing with ACT and SAT. When you use that measure as more than what it actually is — a snapshot of educational assessment — you run into problems,” Mouw said. “You have to use multiple measures at multiple checkpoints in a program in order to accurately assess a person’s readiness to teach.”
Dordt’s Teacher Preparation Program continually assesses students’ progress and attempts to catch potential problems before they snowball, requiring minimum grades in education classes and the remediation of dispositional concerns.
“Each individual program has a lot of different measures they use to assess readiness. I think some programs do it more intentionally than others,” Mouw said. “I don’t think the Praxis is the hinge point. I don’t think it’s the make or break to a successful program.”
The education department still must submit its program requirements to the state for approval and meet Iowa’s standards. TPP’s internal checks, close eye, and rigorous classes will continue to prevent unqualified students from graduating with a teaching license. Yet, the change in state law shows the shifting of the education system. Where it is shifting to is to be determined. As with most educational questions, the correct answer is not black or white. Dordt education classes praise lifelong learners and flexibility, both in the classroom and in the system.
What worked in the past is not guaranteed to work now. With a national teacher shortage, schools must adapt and work with what they have. The removal of the Praxis may be the deconstructing of an unnecessary barrier in the path of education students; it may be a desperate lowering of standards to allow more teachers into the career. Regardless of the reason, Dordt will continue to train education majors to teach well.
Photo credit: Dordt University