New Jersey lowers standards for teacher certification

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(The Center Square) — New Jersey Gov. Murphy has signed a bill eliminating a requirement for teachers to pass a basic skills test as part of a broader effort to alleviate the state’s educators shortage.

The new law allows prospective teachers who don’t take the so-called Praxis test to get an “alternate teaching certificate” that can become a standard teaching certificate after four years of continuous employment as a teacher at a public school, charter school or private school for students with disabilities.

The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union which pushed for the law, praised its approval and said it would help put more teachers in classrooms across the state amid a record educator shortage.

“At a time of acute educator shortages across the state, qualified candidates who have earned an accredited degree and successfully completed their student teaching should not be barred from our classrooms on the basis of a one-off standardized test that cannot effectively measure the knowledge or skills needed to be a great teacher,” union leaders said in a statement.

Union leaders argued that the basic skills test requirement, particularly its up-front costs, represented an “equity barrier” to entering the teaching profession.

Under the new law, candidates must pass subject tests to measure their mastery of the specific academic discipline and grade levels relevant to their certification. They must also have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution of higher education.

The state Education Department had called for eliminating the Praxis test only for prospective educators with master’s or other advanced degrees.

But, the teacher’s union argued that those with a bachelor’s degree already possess the basic skills to become an educator.

“We thank the Legislature and Gov. Murphy for this new law and our members for their strong advocacy to make it happen,” NJEA said in its statement. “We will continue to fight for smart policies and thoughtful reforms that address the educator shortage and help keep our public schools the best in the nation.”

Like many states, New Jersey faces a chronic shortage of teachers in disciplines ranging from science and math to English as a second language and special education classes.

The law, which goes into effect immediately, will sunset in five years.

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