Some education majors have had to deal with an extra requirement before they can student-teach.

The education department implemented a new prerequisite for student teaching, which may have an effect on whether students will be able to graduate on time.

Beginning this academic year, elementary education students (excluding this year’s seniors) have been required to pass the state teaching certification tests, such as the Praxis II Multi Subjects and Foundations of Reading, before they can begin student teaching.

This new college requirement is not a state policy, but implemented by the education department to help students be better prepared to start teaching once they graduate, according to Education Department Chair Dr. Ellen Nuffer.

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Samantha Moore / Art Director

As a result, Nuffer said the new requirement has had an impact on elementary education majors in a number of ways.

“Students are having to budget for taking those tests a little earlier than they might have otherwise, and they know that while they are in the program, they have to be thinking about when are they going to take time to study for those tests, when are they going to take time to register and actually do the tests themselves,” Nuffer said.

Nuffer also said that the test demonstrates to students that as an elementary school teacher, students need to be proficient in a wide variety of topics.

“Not only do you have to know how to do that, but you have to know the content too, and so this requirement to be able to demonstrate that content-specific knowledge is a good thing, reminding students that rocks and minerals [are] part of what you teach. Math [is] part of what you teach. How the American Revolution came about [is] part of what you teach, so you need to know all of that,” Nuffer said.

Nuffer said that a lot of students would put off the tests until after graduation and therefore lose the support that may have helped them pass.

“They lose all of that support, so we view it as a good thing that we’re now saying, ‘Pay attention to this before you end up leaving us and then you don’t have any supports,” Nuffer said.

Student responses

Due to her seniority this year, KSC senior Emily Guillemette has been able to student-teach, despite not passing her state certification exams. However, she said that she has taken the tests a number of times, coming up short.

“It’s a frustrating experience,” Guillemette said.

To help students pass the, now more urgent, tests, Nuffer said that the department and its faculty have made sure to put more emphasis on how students are doing with the preparation for the tests, including paying for online study guide subscriptions, flash cards, spending more time in class on test preparation and more.

Junior elementary education major Holly Geno stated that the additional requirement may put additional stress on students.

“I know of a lot of education majors who have had issues passing certain exams and now having this new deadline puts even more pressure on everyone to pass their exams the first time,” Geno stated

Based on her experience, Guillemette said not passing the tests does not manifest into an inability to teach in a classroom.

“I think that these tests, they show a different process of teaching and not actually what you are capable of doing in the classroom,” Guillemette said.

More to know 

While Nuffer said that it would be a rare occurrence for a cooperating teacher to report that a student-teacher was ill-prepared or did not know the teaching material, the new requirement has been put into place to coincide with state and national concerns.

“It was more a concern on a larger level. On a larger state level and on a federal level of the public wanting to be reassured that students really did know the content,” Nuffer said.

However, Nuffer said that she disagrees with the overall decision by the state to use testing as a measure of a student’s content knowledge, preferring more of a reliance on professional opinion and recommendation.

To demonstrate further content knowledge, other new requirements include education majors with the specific content majors of English, math, modern language, sciences, social studies, music and physical education are now required to maintain a 2.5 GPA in their declared content major.

Early childhood education majors are now required to maintain at least a 3.0 in their program option and specialization two courses.

Jacob Barrett can be contacted at jbarrett@kscequinox.com