Becoming a classroom teacher in a public school starts with getting a college degree; completing the coursework required for an education major – usually two years of upper division study – and student teaching for six to twelve months. The next phase is to obtain a license or alternative teaching certification. As these credentials are state specific, it is important to explore exact requirements from the state where one wishes to work.
In many states, completion of a college course of study and testing in a credentialing program will automatically result in state teaching credentials. In other states, licensing involves passing some kind of exam or exams in the teacher’s subject area, whether in general elementary education or in a specialty, such as reading. One test that is typically required even before entering a teaching program is the Praxis.
The Praxis test series is currently mandatory in 40 states. The Praxis I is usually required in the freshman or sophomore year of school. Referred to as Pre-Professional Skills Test, it covers basic skills in reading, writing and math. Aside from being a prerequisite for state teachers’ licensing, Praxis I is also often used to pre-qualify applicants for an Education major. Praxis II, or Professional Assessment for Beginning Teachers, tests for specific knowledge by subject area, as well as general and specific teaching skills. It is generally taken in the junior or senior year of college.
Credentials are usually issued within defined limits, such as:
Early childhood education (preschool to third grade) Elementary (first grade through eighth grade) Middle and secondary credentials require a field of expertise credential, in combination with other state specific requirements.
The highly publicized teacher shortage in the United States is most critical in inner city areas, and in some specific subject matters such as technology, math and science. To address these challenges, most states have organized alternative teacher certification programs for individuals who have a desire to teach and already have at least a bachelor’s degree in subjects other than Education.
Also, some universities have created teacher education centers that enable individuals wanting to achieve certification or endorsements to their current licensing (for special education, English as a Second Language and the like) in an accelerated format.
The Praxis tests have stirred up a lot of controversy as even professionals who are currently teaching, and are considered very good instructors, often fail them. Also, both African Americans and Hispanics, who are underrepresented in the teaching industry, fail the Praxis more often than Caucasians and Asians. This has led to serious concern that the emphasis on these standardized tests encourages the homogenization of the teacher workforce in an increasingly diverse world.
From “No Child Left Behind” to private initiatives such as that of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teacher proficiency and effectiveness continues to be a crucial concern in today’s competitive global economy. The Praxis method of evaluating potential educators was developed as one way to address that concern. Perhaps it is not the concept that needs some reconsideration, but the content or format of the tests themselves.
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Author Stephen Daniels highly recommends National Teacher Education Center for those seeking the best jobs in the education arena. They offer alternative teacher certifications as well as MA and MS degrees in educations via their alternative education programs, so students can continue to work and study simultaneously for their higher degrees.