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Student petition sparks debate over School of Education test requirements 

Students of Howard University’s School of Education rally to end Praxis exams, citing financial burden and graduation jeopardy, despite accreditation requirements.

The School of Education sits behind the Alain Locke Building. (Eliana Lewis/The Hilltop)

When Brooklyn King created a petition last month requesting Howard’s School of Education (SOE) to end the graduation requirement of passing Praxis exams, she thought that these exams were no longer necessary to obtain a teacher’s license in Washington, D.C.

Although they are, according to D.C.’s State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), King, a senior English major and secondary education minor from Capitol Heights, Maryland, still believes the petition has relevance. 

The petition was inspired by the voices of several senior elementary education students who faced failing grades last semester as they were unable to pass one or more of their Praxis II content exams.

King and other students want SOE leadership to reconsider the coupled requirement of having to pass Praxis exams to graduate from the school as the tests are too financially burdensome for some and are putting others’ graduation in jeopardy. 

“As a student who, for the most part, is supporting herself in trying to make a career in education for the betterment of the Black community, I ask that you just hear our plea, hear our cry,” King said. 

Those seeking to complete their teacher education at Howard are required to pass a series of Praxis exams: the Praxis Core, the Praxis II content and the Praxis Principles of Learning (PLT). 

Currently, elementary education majors have to take a content exam in English language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, according to the admission requirements listed on the SOE website. 

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All education majors and minors are required to take the Praxis Core, an exam measuring reading, writing and mathematics along with the PLT which measures knowledge of teaching pedagogy.  

In addition to exams being a graduation requirement, entry into some required courses also depends on passing the exam, according to SOE course restriction guidelines. 

“The experience that me, my cohort and some of the other students in SOE have struggled with a lot is having to pay for these tests out of pocket and not receive any assistance from the school of education,” Mr. School of Education and senior elementary major Quentin Price said. 

Senior elementary education student and president of the SOE Student Council Autumn Ford has taken one particular exam multiple times and has not yet passed. She said that because of this, her graduation in the spring may be in jeopardy. “I’ve been trying, I’ve been studying,” she said. “It’s quite frustrating that my degree is being held.” 

Ford said she wishes professors would have included test prep in their coursework to prepare students for their exams. “As a senior, there’s nothing they can do. It’s all too little too late,” she said.

She said if she does not pass the Praxis II Content exam during the spring semester, she would have to pay $16,000 out-of-pocket for another two semesters at Howard “because of an exam I have not been properly prepped for.”

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Ford, along with senior elementary education student, Khamiyah Brown, was among the number of students last semester who received an incomplete in their internship course for not passing the exam. “I’ve been taking this test since last year,” Brown said. 

With final Praxis scores due April 10, Brown has begun developing a “waning anxiety,” surrounding the test especially as it has begun to dip into her “rent and eating money.” 

While SOE dean Dr. Dawn Williams said she understands the concern of the students, she believes the exams are necessary for those who wish to step into the teaching profession. 

“Howard is in the business of producing qualified, certifiable teachers,” Williams said. “The population that we serve is largely Black and Brown communities. We would be out of our mission to not provide them with the highest level that is expected out of our profession.”

In response to students’ concern about Praxis affecting graduation, Williams shared the data from the past three years displaying the graduation rate and passing scores of previous elementary education majors. (Data courtesy of SOE Dean Dr. Dawn Williams)

Williams said what students may not realize is that the requirement of students needing to take the Praxis exams comes not just from the administration but from the organization that gives SOE its accreditation, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

“Teaching is a profession. We deal with real lives, children – the most vulnerable of our population,” Williams said. “We are not putting unprepared people in front of children. So this is a requirement that is of the profession, not Howard University.” 

Students within the School of Education pay for the exams themselves, which range from $90 to $180 each, according to the official Praxis website. There is a waiver offered by the Educational Testing Service, the company that administers the exams, to those who have a FAFSA-dictated family contribution of under $3,000, according to the Educational Testing Service website.

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Morgan Willis, a transfer mathematics major and secondary education minor, found out about the exams on May 15 the same day she was finally placed with an education advisor. “It was very stressful to find out at the very last minute,” she said. 

According to Willis and a breakdown she has provided to The Hilltop, she has spent more than $900 out of pocket to take these exams. 

“I think it’s unfair if I’m doing the work for the internship but if I don’t pass the exam then I fail the course,” she said. “I’m in this alone, I’m doing this by myself. I can’t even function properly some days because I just have to do classes and study. It’s a stressor.” 

OSSE offers an exemption in the requirement of specifically taking the Praxis Core. The School of Education also offers an exemption from taking the Praxis Core in the subjects of reading and mathematics if students have an SAT or ACT score that meets the minimum requirement.

King said the rhetoric of this update in requirements led her to believe this exemption could be applied to other Praxis examinations they are required to take, the Praxis II Content and Praxis Principles of Learning. 

“If anything, current and future SOE students have to hold [SOE administration] accountable because students not graduating because of a standardized test is still unfair,” King said.

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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