Virginia has gotten lots of public kudos over the years for setting the highest bar in the nation for its basic skills licensing test (the Praxis I). What's less well known about the Old Dominion's tough standards is the exceedingly generous amount of time the state gives teachers to pull off a passing grade ? up to three years after they start teaching. This patient policy leads to occasional quandaries in which the state is forced to defend its testing policy against the inevitable testimony that some fabulous teacher is being pushed out of the classroom, all because of a silly, meaningless test.
So what's a state to do? Rather than lower its cut scores, as some education board members are threatening to do, the state ought to change its deadline for passing the test, requiring aspiring teachers to pass the test before they are even admitted into a teacher preparation program. Virginia's state legislature recently exempted out-of-state teachers seeking certification in Virginia from the state's Praxis I requirement?presumably because they should be well past the point of having to pass what should be an initial educational hurdle. The legislature should follow through on this spark of logic and realize that the time to pass a basic skills test ought to be before an aspiring teacher is even admitted into an undergraduate teacher preparation program.
Then, the state will avoid having to answer questions from teachers like Anne C. "Christie" Hingst, who failed the reading test by four points and asked in The Virginia Pilot... If I make those four points, does that mean all of a sudden I'm a better social-studies teacher?" Added benefit? The state won't be investing tax dollars educating aspiring teachers who can't meet the first educational milestone. And, even more beneficial, we will be honoring the right of all children to be assigned a qualified teacher.