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A Praxis about journalism?
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by Candace Bowen

Chemistry teachers take a test showing they know electronic configurations based on the periodic table. History teachers demonstrate what they know about the early river valley civilizations. And the list goes on.

But how often and where do journalism teachers have to prove their knowledge?

Not too often, if the Praxis content area tests are any measure. There has been no such test for future journalism teachers until recently, though the list of tests for those teaching other sorts of courses is long.

First, full disclosure: I know nothing about electronic configurations and even less about early river valley civilizations. I don’t even know too much about the Praxis content area tests.

But the latter isn’t my fault. As soon as I heard about a month ago that such a test exists, my goal was to find out about it.

Here’s what I know so far: Only the state of Iowa requires the test. It’s given three times a year, and it was administered at least once – this past November. I have yet to find anyone in Iowa who has taken it or knows more about it, not even Vanessa Shelton, executive director of Quill and Scroll journalism honor society, headquartered at the University of Iowa. Seems like she should have been involved in creating it.

Just who did create it? Educational Testing Services, which administers the test, would only say this in response to my email:

 “The Praxis Journalism test (code 0223) exists and is scheduled to be offered on April 13, 2013 and July 20, 2013. Currently, the test is only used for licensing in the state of Iowa.

“The Journalism test was written and reviewed by committees composed of educators, faculty from educator preparation programs, and other experts in the field. For additional information about the test, please visit our website at http://www.ets.org/praxis/prepare/materials/0223.

“We appreciate your interest in working on this test with ETS, and we hope you find this information helpful.”

Not enough info. You failed MY test, ETS.

I also found “representative descriptive topics” and other information on the website. Apparently the test is copyrighted in 2010 by the Texas Education Agency and licensed by ETS.

The sample questions worry me even more. For instance, in one question about a “controversial” story, the correct answer is to go ask the principal what he thinks – and an incorrect answer is to seek legal advice, indicating it’s too early in the process to ask for advice. Had the test-writers heard of the SPLC?

The test even spells it ADVISOR.

Yes, I’m ranting. But I’m also looking for those in the other states that appear to be adding the test to their requirements. I’ve heard through the grapevine teachers, college education experts and others from from Wisconsin (Thank you, Linda Barrington, for the original tip.) , Wyoming, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Kansas and Iowa are going to look at this test. Mary Arnold, former high school teacher and current head of the journalism department at South Dakota State, is one who will be there. She certainly could help the ETS write a better test– she was part of the original group that set up JEA’s certification tests.

Know more? Please let ME know. Contact Candace cbowen@kent.edu

If there’s to be a national journalism test for new teachers, let’s make sure it measures what we think it should. Let’s find a way to be sure knowledge of press law and ethics and journalism’s place in a democracy are assessed. That must be as important to our colleagues as the periodic table and the early river valley civilizations are to other teachers down the hall.

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