Praxis exam scoring upsets education majors

By Nicoletta Sabella
March 30, 2006

A class-action lawsuit against the Educational Testing Service was settled on March 14 when they agreed to pay $11.1 million to test takers who had been wrongly scored.

The tests that were scored incorrectly by the ETS were the Praxis series exams. The “Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching: Grades 7-12” that were taken from January 2003 to August 2004 were the particular cases involved in the lawsuit. That specific test is taken over three sessions, during two hours with a cost of $85. The Praxis exams are primarily taken to determine whether or not education majors in college will be able to student teach or even become licensed teachers.

Thirty-nine states use the Praxis series tests to determine who can become a licensed teacher each year. According to the New York Times, there were 27,000 people who took the tests, and their scores ranked lower than they should have been, and 4,100 wrongly failed the tests. In their attempt to compensate students for their mistakes, the ETS is paying approximately $500 per student who was wrongly failed. Plaintiffs that present their individual instances to a court-appointed master will receive the remainder of the $11.1 million.

“Unbelievable,” Karen Randazzo, a junior chemistry and secondary education major, said. “I would have been really upset. We count on these tests to make sure that our basic skills are where they should be. Having been mis-scored would completely make that purpose meaningless,” Randazzo said.

“I’d be angry, and that’s to say it nicely. It would send me back probably a whole semester because, even if I got it fixed by now, I still wouldn’t be able to student teach,” Dan Cowhey, a senior history and secondary education major, said.

Praxis exams are broken into four or five tests. The first three test knowledge of basic reading, writing and math skills, which are taken usually freshman or sophomore year. The reading and math are multiple choice, and the writing is essay. The fourth test is a measure of ones in-depth knowledge of reading and writing with an addition of a social science section taken sophomore or junior year. Lastly, the fifth test is focused on the specific area of study taken senior year.

Since the rise of electronically scored test errors, like the case of the College Board mis-scoring the SATs in October, many students feel that they should not be weighed as such a big part of becoming a teacher. “I think the only thing that could fix it is less emphasis on the test,” Cowhey said. “It’s a good judgment of knowledge, but I don’t know if it’s a good judgment of teaching,” he said.

Carrie Kauffman, a senior history and secondary education major, thought that students look to the Praxis tests to determine if they will be effective teachers. However, she felt that other qualities that cannot be determined by a written test are very important in becoming an excellent teacher and are not recognized. “Classroom demeanor and a genuine desire for students to succeed as effective citizens cannot be scored on a multiple-choice test,” Kauffman said.

Most students agreed that grading by computers is inevitable and not always error proof. They also agreed that the mistakes were major setbacks for those who were involved.

“This exam dictates a teacher’s future. If the exam is not passed, students are unable to continue progressing in their educational studies because they cannot participate in field experience,” Randazzo said.

“I think it’s a shame that so many tests were incorrectly scored. I’m glad that I wasn’t involved in the case, but as a student of education, I sympathize with the students that were affected,” Kauffman said.

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@ The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Nicoletta Sabella

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