The Praxis® Tests
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Selecting appropriate assessments and determining their passing scores are very important focal points in any assessment and licensing process. It is imperative that assessment selections and passing scores be set by following a rigorous process that reflects the professional judgment of qualified professionals.
While ETS develops and delivers a range of assessments required for teacher licensure, ETS doesn’t determine a state’s certification or license area requirements. Each state education agency determines what needs to be tested and which assessments are best to use to test that material.
Similarly, ETS does not set the passing scores for those assessments; each state education agency sets the operational passing score. Choosing a passing score on a licensing test is an important policy decision. Various stakeholders, including educators, legislators, school board members, etc., should be consulted during the decision-making process. The complex factors that shape passing score decisions can be grouped into two broad categories:
The sections that follow briefly discuss the standard-setting process. For a more in-depth look, download the Technical Manual for the Praxis® Tests and Related Assessments (PDF).
Qualified experts must consider several variables and make important choices regarding what needs to be tested and what tests to use. The teaching standards for the licensure area, the aspects of the standards that need to be tested (e.g., content or pedagogy), grade level, and whether the test would be used for licensure or endorsement are among the considerations that may be discussed.
ETS provides blueprints for the Praxis tests that may meet the state's needs and that are aligned with state and/or national standards. ETS then conducts a formal test review for state stakeholders to review appropriate tests to determine which test best fulfills all criteria.
The planning phase is crucial if the resulting passing score is to be acceptable and defensible. There must be a justifiable and well-documented rationale for each of the decisions made during planning regarding passing scores. The state, in consultation with ETS, determines its requirements, including when the test must be in place with a passing score and what needs to be done within that time frame.
Each authorized licensing agency must conduct a passing score study (a standard-setting study) for each test requiring a passing score. The agency may use ETS's services, conduct its own study or use the services of another organization. The study and its outcomes must be documented.
A passing score is the minimum test score that a test taker needs to pass the particular licensure test and be awarded a license to teach. Once the study is complete, decision makers set the operational passing score after considering important information such as test score distributions, supply and demand surveys, measurement error, cost-benefit analyses and diversity in the teaching force. They should also consider the relative harm caused by the possibility of passing an unqualified candidate and the possibility of failing a qualified candidate.
The licensing agencies must also file adoption paperwork with ETS. Once received and processed, the test and score requirements are posted to the Praxis website and entered into the operational scoring system for implementation.
Licensing agencies should conduct periodic reviews of their requirements. On occasion, they may feel that an adjustment is appropriate to either the selection of tests or the passing score requirement. Learn more about changing requirements.