Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico is switching to a teacher candidate exam system that will increase costs for first-time test takers.
The state has previously used the National Evaluation Series to test K-12 educator hopefuls, but it’s shifting to the new-to-New Mexico Praxis system, aiming to have a test that provides test-takers with more support.
Information from the state Public Education Department shows that the move will cost teacher candidates up to $50 more for required assessments at the get-go.
Hope Morales, executive director of Teach Plus New Mexico, said an uptick in the initial price tag could hamper someone eying a career in education.
While the change to Praxis costs more for individual tests, PED Deputy Secretary Gwen Perea Warniment said candidates will have free retakes and more resources.
Under the previous testing platform, a candidate would pay full price for a second go at the exam.
For elementary reading, the new Praxis test will cost candidates $146 – up from $95 for the NES equivalent, according to the PED. Similarly, Praxis’ basic skills sub-tests will cost $150 whereas NES’ cost $100.
Not all of the Praxis exams will have that steep of a bump, however. Some tests will be closer to $25 extra, such as the special education assessment.
New Mexico has a substantial need for teachers. As of September, there were 644 open teacher positions across the state, according to a New Mexico State University report.
Morales emphasized the state should have an exam that is accessible but maintains high expectations.
“We are not in a place right now where we have an abundance of teachers. If there is something that could be a blocker, like a financial component, we need to be looking ahead and make sure there aren’t barriers that could hinder teachers getting to the classroom,” she told the Journal.
Perea Warniment said, while the state is aware of the teacher vacancy issue, it has to find an exam that measures academic expertise thoroughly.
A comparison of NES and Praxis found the Praxis system to be stronger, Perea Warniment said, adding that more states use Praxis.
“The tricky thing around this is really wanting to build out capacity and the workforce because we know we’re in a crisis – but also not necessarily lower standards,” she said.
Praxis’ resources and the opportunity to take the test multiple times was a key factor in the switch.
“There was much more solid wrap-around support (with Praxis). The first … of those wrap-around supports is if an educator or candidate fails the test, they don’t have to pay for it the second time. They can simply retake the test,” she said. “That’s a big barrier for many of the educators right now.”
Under Praxis, a teacher candidate will also be able to access Khan Academy, a nonprofit that provides online educational tools.
And there will be Praxis practice tests, though NES also offered practice tests.
The new testing requirements primarily affect those entering the teacher profession. But it can affect teachers already in the classroom if they want to teach a different grade or subject and need to take the necessary exams, Perea Warniment explained.
Until the end of August, candidates will be able to choose between the two testing systems. But by Sept. 1, Praxis will be the only option.