By Sophia Turgeon, Contributing Writer.
The Maine Department of Education announced this summer that they are eliminating the Praxis for aspiring teachers.
The Praxis is a series of tests created to fully equip college students for a career in teaching. The Praxis tests consist of multiple tiers of testing in certain subjects. Students were required to get certain scores on each test in order to advance into their practicum semester. On June 16 Governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law that resulted in Praxis exams being eliminated as a requirement for teachers.
Paige Polley, a current junior at the University of Maine at Farmington who took Praxis I is relieved that there is no more testing.
“As a person who doesn’t test well, Praxis did create a lot of stress for me that I feel like was unnecessary because it doesn’t reflect my intelligence and my ability to teach. However, with that being said, I did take my Praxis I at a time, which was $270 and I failed two of them, so I had to retest. And right after my retesting with passing results, I found out we didn’t need to take them anymore. I was upset and annoyed but now I don’t have to worry about Praxis II and wasting more money,” Polley said.
Money is oftentimes a concern for college students who have to spend hundreds of dollars on these tests.
Emma Williams, also a junior at UMF has a different way of thinking about Praxis exams being eliminated. Williams completed Praxis I and passed on her first attempt. She also had completed two portions of the Praxis II exams before the exam requirements were removed. With these tests being removed, students are worrying that they may not be as equipped for educating as some other teachers may be.
“I like it but it also concerns me. I’m happy I don’t have that pressure anymore, but worry when thinking about the future and how it will impact me, how I teach, and what I teach. How will I be compared to others who took them,” Williams said.
Williams also has taken both of her practicums and feels as though the Praxis exams served more as a refresher for general knowledge than a key element to being a good teacher.
“I feel as though the classes I was taking in college during my practicums were more important and impactful while in the classroom rather than the Praxis exams,” Williams confessed.
Individuals that are in the teaching community have been told how important these exams are to become certified educators. Now, without these exams being mandatory, students may feel some anxieties about how they will be successful teachers without the confidence of passing.
The Associate Professor of Secondary and Middle Education here at UMF, Clarissa Thompason, believes that these tests, along with standardized tests as a whole, are not the proper way to gauge whether or not a student would eventually become a good teacher.
“[…] I don’t think they [Praxis exams] really mark how bright you are, how motivated you are, or how well you’re gonna do in college. It discriminates against English language learners, it discriminates against kids from less privileged backgrounds, it discriminates against kids from poorer schools. It becomes a gateway here and kids who might be fantastic teachers can’t get past that and spend tons of money on it. So, they measure something, but it’s really small,” Thompson said.
Currently, licenced future Maine educators are required to get fingerprinted, earn at least a bachelor’s degree in education, and be accredited by a university.
by April Mulherin, UMF Associate Director for Media Relations
This story was a press release by the UMF Media Relations Department.
(Left to right) Maggie Pomerleau, UMF senior majoring in secondary education, as she worked in the classroom with Denise Mochamer, her mentor teacher from Mt. Blue Middle School, prior to remote learning directive due to COVID-19.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
FARMINGTON, ME (April 28, 2020)—University of Maine at Farmington graduating senior Maggie Pomerleau, from Sidney, was excited about student teaching and her spring semester at UMF. Things changed when in March, University of Maine System campuses and K-12 schools throughout the state transitioned all in-class instruction to remote learning, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
With a major in Secondary Education, and a concentration in English, she was in the midst of fulfilling her student teaching requirement with Mt. Blue Middle School eighth-grade teacher Denise Mochamer, UMF class of 1989, and the 80 middle school students from four classrooms in the cohort.
Pomerleau felt very fortunate to have Mochamer as her mentor teacher and loved the kids.
“I was pretty stressed at the start, as I’m sure we all were,” said Pomerleau. “My time at Farmington has really prepared me for the teaching profession, and I didn’t want to miss my student teaching experience.”
Mochamer’s response to the situation was calm and supportive, according to Pomerleau. “Once we all caught our breath it was, “okay, how do we make this work for our kids?”
“We had to think outside the box,” said Pomerleau. “We are so fortunate that students in the Mt. Blue School District have laptops they can use and take home.
Mochamer transitioned classroom activities to Google Classroom, and office hours were set up with an online tool, three times a week, for students who needed extra help or just wanted to reach out. Also, Pomerleau has a weekly virtual meeting with her mentor teacher. Communication is key as Google Hangouts and email provide useful tools for staying in touch with students.
They still had to figure out how to help the students without internet at home, according to Pomerleau. She helped Mochamer create work packets the students could pick up when they picked up their daily meals provided by the district’s food service.
UMF student Maggie Pomerleau on one of her many virtual meetings with mentor teacher Denise Mochamer as they create virtual student teaching experience.
Photo Credit: UMF Image
“I have truly enjoyed working with Maggie this spring,” said Mochamer. “It didn’t go as originally planned, but we certainly have been creative and worked through this new learning. I wouldn’t have wanted to go through it with anyone else but her.”
For the unit on argumentative writing, Pomerleau created a lesson plan and was busy grading 80 essays, while also working on her digital portfolio and teacher work sample for the end of her school year.
“It’s been hard not being at the middle school during my last semester at UMF. I see my students missing their friends, spring sports and the end of the year activities, and I am going through the same thing,” said Pomerleau.
“It’s been a challenging experience, but one that has helped prepare me for the crucial and evolving role teachers fill every day.”
In addition to her studies, Pomerleau has served as the student representative for the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, vice president for the UMF Class of 2020, a member of the UMF Student Senate and an Admissions Ambassador.