In response to growing demand from its state customers to offer a new elementary generalist licensing test, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) will be releasing a considerably improved alternative to the current Praxis II "content knowledge" test now used by 25 states.
We can't resist patting ourselves on the back for our part in motivating states on this issue through a steady stream of critiques of the current test both in the State Teacher Policy Yearbook and in our national and state reviews of teacher preparation programs.
What's definitely better about the new test? It covers the same five core subjects as the old test, but in more depth. For example, reading instruction will be addressed in 30 to 35 questions, rather than 15.
Most importantly, the new test will produce four separate scores and a cut-score will be set for each subject area, making it impossible for an elementary teacher to pass the test without showing basic knowledge in each area. In the current version, high performance on part of the test (most often language arts) can be used to compensate for low performance on another (generally mathematics).
Unfortunately, the new test still combines performance on reading and language arts questions in one score.
Of course, all these great changes could be undone by states setting their cut-scores so low that the content becomes nearly irrelevant. With Common Core standards on the horizon, we're hoping that states will get a little more gutsy than their current approach--where the majority have set their cut-scores well below the mean: