By Katrina Teixeira, Staff Writer

Katrina Teixeira studying for the Praxis Exam (photo courtesy of Gia Pilgrim)

Katrina Teixeira studying for the Praxis Exam (photo courtesy of Gia Pilgrim)

If you do not attend the University of Maine Farmington or have never been an education major, you probably have never heard of the series of tests referred to as Praxis or Core Academic Skills for Educators (CORE).

Praxis is a series of comprehensive tests focusing on three areas; reading, writing and math. Each test takes 120 minutes. To take all three in one session would take 300 minutes or five hours. These exams are a major source of stress for education majors, myself included. I have been battling with these exams for what feels like forever. Not only do the Praxis exams take numerous precious hours from your life, they are also very expensive. To take one subject test, it costs $85, and to take all three of them together, it costs $135.

Currently being a sophomore, elementary education major, I have the joy of having to take the Praxis tests. Passing the exams is a prerequisite for being able to participate in practicum and to graduate with a certified education degree. This is despite the fact that Praxis exams are not recognized in other states. Being from Massachusetts, these tests will mean nothing to me after I graduate and return home.

I took the combined Praxis test (all three exams) last fall. Unfortunately I did not pass them all according to Maine’s testing standards. I scored three points above passing in reading, but was two points below passing level in writing and ten points in math.

One positive aspect of the Praxis tests is that they allow you to use up to three points scored above passing in one section of test and move it to another section that you scored below passing. For example I was able to use two points from my reading score to bring my writing test score up to passing.  This just left me with the math section and I had one point left from my reading test that I could use. This meant that to pass the math section I only needed to score a 149.

I have taken the math section of the Praxis exam over and over to try and pass it. I scored higher the second time around, then my score dropped on my third attempt. I took praxis for a fourth time on October 9th (last month).

I’ve been on pins and needles waiting for the results, which take over a month and never arrive on the date your told to expect them. I recently found out the bad news. I can not partake in practicum in the spring because I missed passing by three points. I will have to retake the exam, spending another $85, before I can begin practicum. Three points stand between me and my goal to pursue my passion as a teacher.

The pressure surrounding the Praxis exams can be intense for ed majors, with financial concerns adding to the strain. I have already spent $475 taking the Praxis exams and I will have to spend more.         This amount of money would require me to work about 63 hours at my work-study job to pay for it.

The toughest thing about continuously failing is having to ask why does passing a test determine if I can or cannot become a teacher? Why does passing a test determine if I can go after my dreams? Why does passing a test determine if I am good enough to teach third graders? Why does passing a test decide if I have been given the ability to change a child’s life?

Not only does passing college classes determine my future, so does a test. The worst part is its not just this test. After I graduate there will be another test required for certification. What’s in my heart doesn’t determine my future, tests do.