Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Assessment Process for Prospective Teachers

Prospective teachers can generally expect a multi-step examination process that includes several distinctly different types of assessment. They may need to demonstrate general academic skills, pedagogical knowledge or skill, and knowledge specific to their teaching areas. Some states mandate additional tests.

The first assessment, typically quite general, may be required before program admission. The assessment process often lasts through the student teaching experience.

States generally use assessments by one of two organizations, ETS or Pearson Education. The National Educator Series (NES) is under the Pearson banner. Pearson makes customized assessments available to states. States that have their own branded assessments most often use Pearson tests. ETS has also provided some customized state assessments.

Some states use assessments from both organizations. There are a limited number of subject tests that are available only from one organization. Praxis, for example, is sometimes the program of choice for special education, though Pearson also has assessments for some special education categories under its banner. A third organization may be utilized for bilingual and/ or world language testing.

General Academic Skills Assessments

A prospective teacher may need to take an assessment of general academic skills for program admission. Some states, though, are discontinuing this requirement. It is often possible to substitute solid scores on another examination such as the SAT or GRE.

Subject Area and Content Tests

Subject or content tests are available for a wide range of endorsements. They may include varying amounts of pedagogy content. ETS notes that approximately 80% of the math, language arts, and science questions on the Content Knowledge for Teaching tests for elementary teachers cover specialized information that relates to teaching (for example, interpreting a student's pattern of mathematical error or selecting an appropriate graphic organizer). ETS, notably, has multiple tests for elementary school teaching.

Subject or content area tests will generally be computer-delivered. Some prospective teachers will need to take more than one subject area assessment. A teacher may need to test again, moreover, if he or she decides to add a teaching area. Sometimes teachers are allowed to add new teaching areas by assessment alone.

Preparation materials are available from the respective organizations. A candidate can, for example, download the Praxis Art Content and Analysis study guide and find a list of topics. Art content and analysis candidates will find open-ended questions, asking them to consider everything from what art materials are toxic to what media an artist might try if his or her drawings had too light a value to the visual characteristics distinguishing Japanese or Chinese landscape paintings from those made according to European traditions. The actual test is multiple choice.

In-depth preparation materials carry a small fee.

Degree holders who seeks alternative certification in subject areas (for example, biology, English, or music) are typically required to take subject tests at an earlier stage than their counterparts in traditional programs; this is part of what determines they are ready for an accelerated path to classroom teaching. Professionals who are considering these options may want to find out what assessments their state or program uses and begin preparing at an early stage.

Pedagogy and Professional Knowledge Assessments

Pedagogy and professional knowledge tests are varied. Many teacher candidates complete a portfolio-based assessment in conjunction with their student teaching. It will likely be the Pearson edTPA; it may be the ETS PPAT. A candidate can expect to provide video of his or her teaching as well as other artifacts. Students may be required to complete an assessment of this type as part of their program’s student teaching experience even if it's not a mandated license requirement.

Teacher candidates may instead complete a more traditional type of pedagogy test for licensing purposes. The Praxis Principles of Teaching and Learning test is in widespread usage. It is available in four grade bands. Among the goals of the Principles of Teaching and Learning exam: to assess whether a teacher can select appropriate assessments and teaching strategies and whether he or she can make reasonable inferences based on the short scenarios presented. Candidates need to be aware of guiding principles behind educational decisions. Assessments include some legal mandates related to teaching. ETS also administers a pedagogy test for world language teachers; it is not part of the Principles of Teaching and Learning series.

The Pearson Assessment of Professional Knowledge test is available in two grade bands: K-8 and 6-12. This assessment consists primarily of multiple choice questions. It also includes two written pieces. One is a work product; one is based on a case scenario.

ETS has piloted a standardized, simulation-based performance assessment, NOTE. Some candidates may be required to take this.

Literacy Teaching Assessments

Some candidates take an in-depth assessment of their knowledge of literacy development. A number of states utilize the Pearson Foundations of Reading assessment. This assesses their ability to develop their students’ literacy competencies, including phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension. The assessment is designed for teachers in the following categories: early childhood, elementary, middle school, and special education. The assessment also incorporates subject areas such as spelling that reinforce literacy. States that require middle grade teachers to take the exam may make it an across-the-board requirements, even for those pursuing math/ science endorsements.

Assessment and the Reciprocity Process

States often accept assessments that are determined to be equivalent to their own. They may have more general requirements for experienced teachers. They may, for example, require that the teacher have passed subject area and pedagogy tests. If additional tests are required, they will not necessarily need to be taken before the teacher steps into the classroom in his or her new state.

For Further Information

Both ETS ( and Pearson ( maintain state-specific pages or sites.

The certification office of the state department of education is often a good starting place.