Judgment Reflects Ourselves

Every day we make dozens of judgments. Some are based on facts, others are based on opinions. We judge how a person looks, acts and feels. Our judgments are sometimes very personal and caring. They can also be harsh and hurtful.

The Nebraska Legislature has made 820 judgments for what Nebraskans need this year with the introduction of bills. NSEA reads, monitors, and takes positions on nearly 150 of those bills. As an association, we make judgments and decisions based on Association resolutions and the agenda approved by the NSEA Board.

Our valued NSEA members make judgments based on information, opinions, and personal values. Whether it is work-related or personal, we often act on judgments we make.

The bills in the legislature evolve from their original form daily. The bills are introduced during public hearings conducted by legislative committees. NSEA has had dozens of members testify on education-related bills this session; many have been featured in The Voice.

This past week, Sen. Vargas introduced LB724 to eliminate the Praxis Core Tests as a requirement for teacher certification. Under the bill, the Praxis Subject Assessment would still be required for certification. The State Board of Education has also proposed changes to Rule 23, which includes the Praxis.

Sometimes the judgments and assumptions I hear during and after testimony can be difficult to process. What I heard during LB724 testimony was no exception. The judgment by non-educators regarding the ability to pass a standardized test was disheartening.

We are facing a teacher shortage across the nation. Many states have done away with the Praxis Core Test requirement to help get more people into teacher education. NSEA has been working on the elimination of the Praxis Core for a number of years. Last year we made progress to eliminate the Praxis Core Test as a requirement for admission, but, currently, it is still required for certification, as well as the Praxis Subject Assessment.

We know and support numerous current educators on provisional certificates who have finished their course requirements, have graduated from college, yet still have not passed the Praxis. My daughter Joy was one of those who volunteered to tell senators about her experience with the Praxis Core Test at a hearing in March (See more on page 11 in the April Voice). Thanks to Joy’s hard work and her amazing tutor, Dr. De Tonack (NSEA-Retired President—who also testified and gave the committee math problems to solve), Joy has one more test to pass.

Here is an excerpt from Joy’s testimony: “In 2020, I transferred to UNK to finish my degree. I was finally admitted to the Teacher Education Program last semester–after the elimination of the Praxis Core requirement. I will student-teach this fall and will graduate in December. However, I still need to pass the writing portion of the Praxis to get my teaching certificate. I currently have a GPA of 3.6. I am a nontraditional student. I am a mom of four children…Currently, I am working part-time in a childcare center, as well as subbing for LPS while finishing school and supporting my family.

My dream and my goal is to be a preschool or kindergarten teacher with Lincoln Public Schools. I love teaching children and my seven years as a Head Start teacher proved that I am and will be an outstanding certificated teacher. I know I am not alone in believing the Praxis tests are an unnecessary barrier to becoming a certificated teacher. No studies indicate that passing the Praxis ensures that teachers can positively impact student learning, nor do these exams predict teacher effectiveness. Sadly, the Praxis is keeping potentially great teachers from finishing Nebraska’s Teacher Education Programs. It’s exacerbating the teacher shortage – and that is hurting children. Please support LB724 by advancing it to the full Legislature.”

I am incredibly proud of Joy for stepping out of her comfort zone to testify.  I was also disappointed at the unfair judgments of some that I read in a few media reports following the hearing. There continue to be misguided notions that test scores predict success.

Joy’s story is the same story of hundreds of students who struggle with standardized tests of any kind. Scores on a single test should not make or break a student’s future. NSEA will continue to advocate and model good judgment to support ALL students.