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The Blue & Gray Press | March 26, 2019

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Required College of Education math exam causes concern

Required College of Education math exam causes concern

By AMANDA SMITH

Staff Writer

Some UMW College of Education (COE) students are concerned about the Math Praxis Core exam impeding on their careers as future teachers. 

The exam is 52 questions with a time limit of an hour. Students are tested on math skills ranging from basic fractions to detailed statistics problems, most which were taught in high school level math classes. 

“The Praxis exam is extremely difficult for those not in any math courses,” said COE student Taylor Nacole. “I personally have not done any of the math in several years nor will I use it in any of my studies towards my career.” 

According to the Virginia Board of Education, “Candidates who fail to achieve the minimum score established by the Board of Education may be denied entrance into the relevant education program on the basis of such failure; however, if enrolled in the program, they shall have the opportunity to address any deficiencies.”

UMW requires any student that applies to the College of Education abide by these requirements with either a passing SAT score in writing, reading, and math or a passing score in a state-administered test such as the VCLA and the Math Praxis Core exam. 

The College of Education at UMW does provide a provisional entry to students who do not have the minimum test requirements to become eligible as a full-time member of the COE. Students that have not fulfilled these requirements are allowed to take a maximum of three education classes before they will be suspended from the COE until entry exams are passed. 

“I think that by the COE making it a requirement to pass these tests hinders the students,” Nacole said. “I am currently at my limit of three education classes and I have not been able to go and take the test nor get help on the material. Having all major content areas take the VCLA makes sense because reading and writing comprehension is shown in everyone, but having an English or history major recall math they haven’t executed in several years is asking for failure.” 

Riley Wright, English major and College of Education student agreed.

“The two biggest problems with this exam requirement is the price and the fact that we can only take three education courses,” he said.

The Math Praxis Core exam is administered year-round and is available to be taken a maximum of six times. Over the past semester, some UMW students have had to take the exam three to six times to receive a passing score. Many students find the exam to be costly as well as difficult.

“I’m going on the third attempt,” said Nacole. “It is ridiculous how much the test is, especially for those who must take it multiple times.” 

The Math Praxis Core exam is provided by the state and costs $90 to take. According to their website, Praxis offers practice tests for $25, adding to students’ financial burden. 

“I know we had to pay for the SAT while in high school, but that was when I lived with my parents full-time and didn’t have to pay for tuition or groceries of my own,” said Wright. “I currently don’t have enough money in my pocket to pay for it.”

Some students worry that the exam is more of a hindrance than a benefit to their future careers as teachers.

“I think an entry exam is important, either the Praxis or the SAT,” said English major and COE student Benjamin Fancher. “However, doing well on the exam itself does not mean you’ll be a great teacher, and not doing well doesn’t mean you won’t be a great teacher. It’s complicated.” 

Students that have passed the requirements are also concerned to see their fellow classmates struggling to pass this one test to be able to continue studying education. Even though she had passing scores from the SAT, COE student Julianna Berry said “not all of us will teach math. I don’t think it’s beneficial to take this exam to any COE students.” 

Students suggested alternative metrics for measuring understanding and success. Some suggest getting rid of state administered exams and having them take content-area specific entry tests from the college itself. 

“It is important that future teachers understand fundamentals such as math and language arts, but I’m not sure if the Praxis core exams are the best way to do it,” Wright said. “Maybe the university could arrange a UMW-specific exam that is covered under tuition or requires specific classes for non-math majors that want to be teachers.” 

“Give students more help and attention for them to succeed,” Wright said. “Some subjects are really hard for people and they need more help than others and I don’t think that is a good enough reason to justify suspension from the COE and take students off their career path.”  

UMW has seen a decline in the student passing rate on this exam. In efforts to resolve this issue, the College of Education has responded to their students’ concerns by creating a tutoring program for the Math Praxis Core exam specifically. On Tuesdays from 5-6 p.m., tutors will come in and work with students on math questions that could be seen on the exam, and go over it step by step. These sessions are held in Trinkle Hall room 106.

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