So you’ve done your teacher training (or gone through the hiring process for an alternative certification program). And now you’re told you still need to take the Praxis? What’s going on here? Why do you have to take the Praxis before you can get a teaching license?
You have to take the Praxis because of state and federal regulations
As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, the federal government requires that all state-licensed teachers be highly qualified. The United States Department of Education gives states and school districts some flexibility in demonstrating that their teachers are “highly qualified”. Within that flexibility, the federal government requires state-licensed teachers to pass tests in subject area competence.
The test that teachers take to get their license does not have to be the Praxis. However, many state teacher licensing boards trust the Praxis and feel it has a proven track record in assessing teaching ability. As a result, teachers in quite a few states have to take the Praxis.
You have to take the Praxis Core to show general academic ability
The Praxis Core, tests general ability in math, reading and writing. It is the most commonly required Praxis exam for teachers. A good score on the Praxis Core proves you have a cross-section of competence in math and language arts at the K-12 level. States ask teachers to take the Core so that they can show they have mastered the same academic skills that their students must use. When you pass the Praxis Core, you show that you can help students read, write, and do math at any grade level and in a variety of subjects.
You have to take the Praxis PLT to show general teaching ability.
The second-most commonly required Praxis test is the Praxis PLT. The Praxis PLT tests your knowledge of learning theory and teaching practice. The Praxis PLT is not specific to any one academic subject. Instead, the PLT is used to see if a teacher knows about the art of teaching. Because learning psychology and teaching methods are very different for different age groups, teachers are asked to take a PLT that is specific to the age group they will teach.
If you’ve been asked to take the Praxis PLT, you have to take it in order to prove you are knowledgeable about your chosen profession.
You have to take the Praxis II (AKA a Praxis Subject Assessment) to prove you’ve mastered a specific content area
No teacher is simply given a general permit to teach any subject they like. Instead, teachers get certified in specialty areas such as language arts, social studies, high school math, early childhood education, and so on. State licensing boards want to be sure that you know your chosen content area well enough to teach it.
The purpose of the Praxis II is to test teachers on specific content knowledge in their license specialty. If you’re studying to be a Chinese language teacher, you’ll need to take a Praxis II test of your Mandarin Chinese abilities. If you’re studying to be a high school business teacher, you’ll be asked to take a Praxis II exam full of questions about business and methods for teaching business. And so on…
It can be frustrating to be faced with a test after you’ve already done a lot of work to become a teacher. But if you’re at the point where you need to take the Praxis, it means you’ve already accomplished a lot! You are now on the home stretch; your state is asking you to take one last round of exams because you’ve earned the right to teach in almost every other respect. Think of the exam as a final step toward being a teacher. Having to take the Praxis is the culmination of all of your diligent study and hard work. Once you pass it, your hard work will have truly paid off.