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Measure ending basic skills tests for teachers clears Senate

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Measure ending basic skills tests for teachers clears Senate

May 20, 2024 | 2:45 pm ET
By Nikita Biryukov
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Measure ending basic skills tests for teachers goes to governor’s desk
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The bill would end the Praxis core test requirement just months after a new law created a pathway letting teachers eschew the basic skills test. (Courtesy of the New Jersey Governor's Office)

A bill that would bar state education officials from requiring teaching candidates to complete basic skills tests to obtain teaching certificates cleared the Senate after an overwhelming vote Monday.

The bill, which cleared the chamber in a 34-2 vote, is meant to address New Jersey’s longstanding teacher shortage by removing barriers to would-be educators seeking to enter the field.

“We need more teachers. This is the best way to get them,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jim Beach (D-Camden)

The bill’s movement comes only months after Gov. Phil Murphy signed a different measure creating an alternate pathway to certification that allows candidates to eschew the basic skills tests.

That law allows teachers to obtain an alternate teaching certificate without sitting for a Praxis core test — the basic skills exam — and that certificate could be converted into a standard certificate after four years at the same school.

The legislation approved Monday would strike those alternate certification provisions from law, and it would leave some testing requirements in place for teaching candidates in specific subject areas.

A would-be math teacher, for example, would still be required to earn a passing grade on a Praxis subject matter exam on mathematics,while a biology teacher must still complete general science and biology subject matter tests.

Basic skills tests would still be required for those seeking limited certificates of eligibility. The Assembly previously passed the measure but must concur with amendments made in the Senate last week before it reaches Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

separate measure that advanced through the Senate Monday would waive the state’s residency requirement for teachers for three years in a bid to draw more educators to the Garden State. New Jersey broadly requires its public workers to live in the state, with few exceptions.

Under the bill, school districts would have to advertise positions to in-state residents for at least three months before they could hire someone who lives in another state, provided the out-of-state applicant was not employed by a New Jersey school in the prior year.

Out-of-state educators hired under the bill would be required to move to New Jersey within three years of their hiring, and the bill would require the Department of Education to draft a report weighing the elimination of the residency requirement after the end of the three-year waiver period created by the bill.

“This bill prioritizes New Jersey residents for teaching positions and only extends eligibility to out-of-state applicants if a role remains vacant,” said bill sponsor Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the chamber’s majority leader. “By temporarily removing the residency requirement we can see how it helps to mitigate shortages and determine how best to move forward.”

The measure has yet to advance in the Assembly since its introduction in January.

An earlier version of this story should have said the basic skills test bill needs a vote by the Assembly before heading to the governor’s desk.