Praxis: Friend or Foe?

Colin Harris Contributing Writer

   With books, homework, tests and quizzes piled high on already strenuously busy education majors, why not add more? The mandatory Praxis exam seems to be the answer.

   The four and a half hour long test, composed of a reading section, math section and two essay prompts, seems almost unbearable for some education majors. It measures students’ capability with these subjects and must be completed before they start their student teaching. 

    Without passing the Praxis, education students may not be able to take certain higher level courses. In the special education department, students must pass the exam in order to take classes above the 200 level, according to special education major Heather McDonald. 

    The Praxis requires a minimum score of 156 in reading, 162 in writing and 150 in math. If these scores aren’t met, the student must retake the exam again until the benchmarks have been reached. 

    Brooke Valentin, a second-year rehabilitation service major, has mixed feelings about Praxis. “I was an [early childhood special education] major but I just recently made the switch over to rehabilitation services. I realized that being in the classroom isn’t for me and I like more one on one with children,” Valentin said. 

      She struggled with the Praxis exam and it impeded her progression through the education program. “I took math and writing twice. I’ve never been good at math so the math test was really hard for me and caused lots of anxiety and worry.” Valentin said. “I felt like I was stuck.” She attributes part of her struggle to her issues with standardized testing and the “high stakes” of these exams.

     Valentin made an effort to improve her scores through serious study but was still challenged. “I bought a book designed for Praxis Core and met with a tutor in the Learning Commons,” she said. “It definitely helped, but it’s hard to teach all that math in just a month.”

    “I think the Praxis should be re-evaluated,” Valentin said. “It should be more of a test about the learning standards and developmentally appropriate practices. The test should focus on what an educator is actually going to be teaching in their classroom, rather than general overall knowledge.”

    Ripley Biggs, a third year early childhood special education major, has taken Praxis a total of four times as of now. “I took my first Praxis test at the beginning of sophomore year. I was able to pass two out of the three sections, but kept tripping up on the math section,” Biggs said. “I feel like I’m just repeating this test over and over again.”

    Biggs has spent copious amounts of money preparing for the exam. “I bought the big textbook to get ready [and] I bought the online study service that is around $60 a month to study for Praxis.” She’s found these resources to be helpful, but not enough to bring her scores up where they need to be. 

    On top of expenses related to study materials, the Praxis Core costs $90 for each subtest or $150 for the combined test, according to the Praxis website. The high cost becomes a serious burden on students in financially unstable positions who are already struggling under tuition, fees and living expenses. To have to repeat the test in order to continue with their education only heightens this stress. 

   Biggs agrees with Valentin’s sentiment on the importance of Praxis as well as critiques on the content it tests. “I believe that Praxis should be required for education majors, however, the test needs to be fixed,” Biggs said. “The test should be focused more on what I need in the field.” For instance, Biggs must answer exam questions on statistics and probability even though the highest math she would be teaching is counting due to her concentration.

UMF Students Bring the Joy of Reading to Mallett Elementary

By Keely McConomy Contributing Writer

The Read To Maine Challenge is taking UMF by storm by preparing UMF Education majors for their futures and helping younger kids learn the power of literacy. The statewide program is a challenge to prove that reading to a young kid for 15 minutes can change their lives in big ways.

   During the month of February, everyone in the state of Maine is challenged to read to kids and post on social media to raise awareness of the importance of literacy. Read To Maine is benefitting both the children and college students, especially at UMF, known for its education program.

   Kathryn Will-Dubyak, a professor and a UMF representative with the Department of Education, has made this into a month-long activity at W.G. Mallett School in downtown Farmington.

   “I think it’s a real strength of UMF, how embedded we are in the community,” said Will-Dubyak. “I’m trying to build outreach with our campus,” she said.

   At Mallett School last year, Read to Maine was only a day-long activity with many adult volunteers from UMF and the community reading to groups of kids. This year, Will-Dubyak has now introduced the Super Beaver Readers, a UMF student, typically an education major, who goes to Mallett School once a week to read to a group of second graders, as well as other guest readers. The volunteer will read chaperbooks to the group during lunch to challenge the kids. The guest readers can also have groups that include kindergarteners and first graders.

   Will-Dubyak stressed the importance of having younger kids seeing their older peers being involved with reading instead of just seeing their teachers or parents.

   “The Mallett children get to see that other people besides their teachers value literature, value reading,” Will-Dubyak said.

   Tracy Williams, the principle of Mallett School, is completely on board with the Read to Maine challenge because of how beneficial it is for the children to “See people around them reading and enjoying reading.”

   Emily Beaudoin, a first grade teacher at Mallett, notices how much it improves her students. “[First graders] are able to listen to a fluent reader, expand their vocabulary, as well as work on their comprehension skills,” Beaudoin said.

   Christina Kouros, a senior and Education major at UMF, just started getting involved in the program this year as a Super Beaver Reader. Kouros loves being active in the program to help the kids, “It gets you in the classroom and you get to have more experience being around children.”

   Kouros enjoys building relationships with the children at Mallett and considers this as an opportunity to have real hands-on experience with children before she graduates UMF.

  Will-Dubyak wants to become even more involved with the Read to Maine Challenge and grow it as much as she can.

   “It’s really about the joy of reading,” she said.