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Nebraska governor rejects rule change for potential teachers

September 24, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has rejected a rule change that would’ve adjusted the passing threshold of an exam required for admission into the state’s teacher colleges.

Ricketts expressed concern that the change to the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators proficiency exam would reduce standards for teachers in Nebraska, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. But education advocates have argued that the adjustment would eliminate a barrier for good candidates and help increase the state’s teaching workforce.

Nebraska Department of Education officials will work to revise the rule to increase the teaching workforce and maintain high teacher quality, according to the governor’s spokesman. The department is creating a committee of educators to study and craft the revisions.

College students must pass the exam in order to be accepted into the state’s teacher education programs. The proficiency test measures academic skills in reading, writing and math and students are required to meet a certain score on each portion. The proposed change would’ve graded students on a composite score instead of individualized section scoring.

Since Nebraska started using the Praxis Core exam four years ago, nearly 750 students who failed would’ve passed using a composite score, said Kevin Peters, director of teacher certification for the Nebraska Department of Education.

About 20 percent of those who failed were minority students, which is a noted issue in a state that has been working for years to increase its number of minority teachers, Peters said.

Educators estimate that at least 150 students statewide took and passed the proficiency exam based on the proposed changes with the expectation that the governor would sign off on them. Now, those students will either have to re-take the test or change majors.

Anita Schwartz is among those who will need to take the proficiency exam again, putting her May graduation in jeopardy. Her composite score met the rule change’s threshold but she scored slightly lower on the math portion under the existing requirements.

“It’s really heart-wrenching,” Schwartz said. “Nebraska is saying, ‘You know, you’re just not good enough,’ and it just doesn’t seem fair.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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