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Educators applaud end of teacher test, may have kept good teachers out of the classroom

MAY 17, 2023: Wood River middle school students line up for lunch. (Photo Credit: NTV News)
MAY 17, 2023: Wood River middle school students line up for lunch. (Photo Credit: NTV News)
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Nebraska cuts red tape in hopes of bringing more teachers into the classroom as the state removes an entry exam for would-be teachers.

As the school year nears the end, the work doesn't end for administrators filling openings.

“We're getting one to three candidates for the positions,” Wood River Superintendent Terry Zessin said of openings.

Wood River recently hired a special education teacher and having two applicants is a luxury.

“We were fortunate to have that many because we know there's a lot of schools that are going without,” Zessin said.


To ease the burden Gov. Jim Pillen has repealed a requirement that teachers take a professional exam known as the Praxis Core.

“Some will say, ‘gosh what does this do and impact with quality of teachers’ and I think it's an example of somebody created something good years ago that isn't really practical and having an impact,” Pillen said.

Dr. Deborah Frison, deputy commissioner of education, said, “National research shows no correlation between performances on basic skills competency and teacher performance.”

The interim superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools said Nebraska has lost out on would-be teachers because they fell a few points short on a math test.

“I know there are. I know of individuals personally that are not in the teaching field now simply because of the Praxis test,” Matt Fisher of GIPS said.

Administrators say the benefit of the test was knowing a future teacher had cleared that bar.

“It's going to increase our reliance on colleges to make sure teachers have met standards to be in the classroom,” Zessin said.

But there are other ways to assess an applicant.

“Student teaching experiences, recommendations and references, are all super important when hiring,” said Zessin who said it’s not a test that makes a good teacher.

Fisher of GIPS echoed that. He said it removes a barrier and gives schools local oversight.

“Between the education programs at the colleges, they're continually evaluating and ultimately we are going to hire people and continually evaluate them and they're going to retain their job if they're good, and if not, we're going to steer them in a different direction, and I think that's a choice local districts should have, and I think a much better way of determining success of teachers than a single test,” Fisher said.

Both Fischer and Zessin welcome any steps that can address Nebraska’s teacher shortage.

“It's encouraging the governor is taking a look at this, and I hope that leads to more strategies to get teachers in the classroom,” Zessin said.

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The University of Nebraska at Kearney said it does not require the test for education majors. The Nebraska State Education Association also backs this. Nebraska joins 33 other states that have taken this step.

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