Education Professor and Department Chair Ellen Nuffer is out to make Keene State College home to a Praxis testing center.
The Praxis is the standardized test that prospective educators must take to become a state certified teacher. KSC education students must take these tests in order to move on in the education program and to be able to practice teaching as a student teacher.
The Praxis is a standardized test, meaning that there are strict guidelines testing centers must follow. According to Nuffer, the centers must be equipped with proctors, security cameras and the building must abide by strict building regulations, such as minimum distance between test takers. The closest approved testing center is at Colby-Sawyer College, 36 miles away from KSC.
There are also seasonal windows in which a student can take their test.
Nuffer said that this, and the fact that it costs money to take the Praxis, can influence a student to put off their tests, which gives them less time to retake them if they fail.
KSC students who fail to pass or take their Praxis tests by the student teaching application submit date of their senior year will not be able to become a student teacher and will not be able to graduate that year. According to the KSC website, this year’s student teaching application deadline is Sept. 29.
This can be a problem, but Nuffer said only a handful of students have trouble passing their tests. She said the bigger problem that students have is being able to actually get to where they can take the test.
Education students must pass at least two series of Praxis tests: the Praxis Core and the Praxis II.
Education students have to take the Praxis Core first. The core test contains three subsections: a test for teaching reading, writing and mathematics.
Education students then have to take the Praxis II. The Praxis II is a certification specific test. According to Praxis’ website, there are 21 different Praxis tests for varying certifications.
Prospective teachers only have to take the test for the field or age group they wish to be certified in. There’s a test for nearly every subject you’ve been through in school.
For example, one who wishes to be a high school chemistry teacher must pass their Praxis Core test, then pass the secondary education Chemistry: Content Knowledge test. If that same teacher wants to also teach a physics class somewhere in their school day, they must also pass the Physics: Content Knowledge test. Someone who wishes to be a middle school science teacher needs to only take the Middle School Science test in addition to the Praxis Core.
Nuffer said KSC does a lot to ensure that their students pass their Praxis exams. The Mason Library has flashcards to help students study for the Praxis Core. It also has a Praxis test preparation book for nearly every subsection of the Praxis II. The test preparation books tell the test taker what they need to know for the test and then have a small lesson on the subject. The books have loads of general information on their discipline. Nuffer said the education department also holds test preparation workshops and creates online modules to help students study.
Nuffer said she believes that a testing center at KSC would offer convenience in retakes and ensure a student’s ability to be able to take the test.
“[A testing center] would make life so much easier for us and the students,” she said. Students would not have to take an entire day off of classes to travel to a testing center, nor would they have to be responsible for finding a ride to one.
KSC senior, education and history major Travis Burnham said that making KSC a testing center is a good idea.
“A testing center within walking distance would be great,” he said. “There would be a specific chunk of people who would use it.”
Burnham took his Praxis II test over the summer. He drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, around an hour and a half away from his home.
Burnham said he agrees that the KSC Education Department does a good job preparing students for the Praxis Core. He said that studying for the Praxis II is a bit harder. “There’s stuff on the [Praxis] II that barely got touched on while I was in middle and high school,” he said. He recalled questions concerning Confucianism and Prince Albert.
Nuffer said she’s been asking the administration to make KSC a testing center.
“Everyone says it’s a great idea,” she said. “I think it could be a money maker, a win-win.”
The testing center would bring money into the college from test fees, but the initial investment is stiff. Due to testing center requirements, it takes a lot of money to open a testing center, money that KSC just doesn’t have. Dean of Professional and Graduate Studies Anne Miller likes the idea, but said that there are a couple of things the school needs to tackle before they can get around to making KSC a testing center.
Part of Miller’s job is to support the KSC faculty’s ideas looking forward, but it’s also her job to manage some of the budget and to make decisions about academic affairs. “We got to figure out structure, then we’ll be in a better position to pursue,” she said.
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