An Overview of the New Praxis III: The Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers

With Praxis I and Praxis II under your belt, there’s one last step you need to take before becoming a full-fledged, certified teacher: Passing the Praxis III, or, a newer version of the test called the Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers (PPAT).

The most dynamic of the three assessments, the PPAT combines formative feedback, lesson planning, analysis of your teaching style, and even footage of you in front of a class to give evaluators a sense of your abilities and skills as a classroom educator.

Here’s what you need to know about the test:

What is the PPAT?

The PPAT is the new version of the Praxis III that the Educational Testing Services is developing. While the Praxis III involved interviews and in-class observations, the PPAT (now in its pilot year) involves completing different tasks that combine formative and summative assessments.

The PPAT is a performance assessment used by some schools or licensing bodies to both evaluate and develop student teachers’ effectiveness prior to that key first year leading a class. It consists of four tasks: an ongoing, formative evaluation of your knowledge of students and the learning environment; and three summative tasks to demonstrate your ability to assess and collect data, design instruction, and implement and analyze your lessons.

These tasks require the teacher to submit a portfolio of artifacts (described below) and a 15-minute observation video via an online account on the ETS website. The PPAT is not an assessment for experienced teachers, nor for determining salary, tenure, or which celebrity will play you in a movie. Rather, the exam provides a framework for developing and refining those skills that you can’t get from a book — like gauging student progress, interacting with students, or designing effective lessons using data.

What will happen to the Praxis III?

The Praxis III is still used to grant licensure by certain states and districts. Once the PPAT is out of its pilot phase and the assessment has been finalized, states will be able to decide whether they want to transition to replacing the Praxis III with the PPAT. If this is a unanimous decision by all states utilizing the Praxis III exam, then it will no longer be administered. If states do not agree on this unanimously, then each state will be able to decide whether it distributes the Praxis III or the PPAT.

Who takes the PPAT?

The PPAT is designed to evaluate student teachers’ readiness for entry-level teaching positions across all grade levels and areas of instruction. Depending on the state or licensing body, it may be necessary for licensure or simply used as an assessment to support the teacher preparation program. It may also be part of teaching programs that offer alternate routes to licensure.

Administration of the PPAT began in the 2014–2015 school year, and many states and programs are in the process of officially adopting this assessment as a requirement. It’s important to communicate with your teacher preparation program to see whether you will need to participate and to find out what score you need to pass the evaluation. The prevalence of performance assessments for teachers is on the rise, so even if you aren’t required to take PPAT, you may have something similar to contend with.

What does it look like?

In contrast to a computer bubble test, the PPAT uses snippets of your student teaching to assess your actual teaching performance. Pieces are submitted and feedback is provided throughout the assessment period in order to refine your practice over the course of student teaching. Artifacts include written responses to prompts, lesson plans, and a 15-minute video of your teaching.

Task 1: Knowledge of Students and the Learning Environment

For the first part of the assessment, you will work to identify the needs of the specific students and community you are teaching. Your goal should be to demonstrate that you can adapt to different environments and think critically about how to help your students grow.

To demonstrate this knowledge, you will submit approximately seven pages of written responses to specific prompts as well as up to seven pages of evidence — such as letters that you’ve sent to families or a Student Interest Inventory — that support your conclusions.

This part of the assessment is formative, so rather than receiving a score, you will analyze your results with an instructor. The conclusions that you come to will become the basis of what you work on for tasks 2–4.

Task 2: Assessment and Data Collection to Measure and Inform Student Learning

This task will examine how you use data to respond to students’ differing needs and better target each person’s learning style. The task requires you to plan, administer, and evaluate an assessment for two students with differing needs.

To complete the task, you will submit up to seven pages describing your process, as well as evidence such as the scoring rubrics you used, data you collected, and so on. You will be scored on a scale of 1–4 on different components of this task. A complete Task 2 Rubric can be found on the ETS website.

Task 3: Designing Instruction for Student Learning

For this task, you will need to create a differentiated lesson plan for the two students you selected for Task 2 and analyze your course of action.

You will complete this task by submitting up to eight pages describing your lesson, along with evidence such as work samples or excerpts from your plan. You will be scored on different components of this task on a scale of 1–4. A complete Task 3 Rubric can be found on the ETS website.

Task 4: Implementing and Analyzing Instruction to Promote Student Learning

In this final task, you will implement the differentiated lesson that you created. You will share this with the evaluators by submitting a nine-page write-up analyzing the implementation, along with evidence that includes a mandatory 15-minute video of your teaching.

Task 4 is also scored on a four-point scale but is weighted more heavily than the other tasks in the overall score you receive. The Task 4 Rubric can be found on the ETS website.

For more information on what is required on each part of the PPAT, check out the Candidate and Educator Handbook for Participation in Pilot Testing.

How do I prepare?

The nice thing about the PPAT is that it aims to assess you in the most authentic way possible — by looking at how you teach in real life. You’ll gather your best work samples, lesson plans, assessments, and data to submit. You will have time to think and reflect on your practice, and you’ll have support from cooperating teachers, supervising instructors, and possibly a teaching mentor in order to put your best foot forward.

How do I register?

Because the PPAT requires specially trained evaluators, your state, program, or licensing body must work with ETS to get you set up. The test itself costs $275, but that fee may or may not be your responsibility. Some teacher programs incorporate the cost of the assessment into their tuition, while others may pass the tab along to you directly. Again, communicate with your teacher prep program or licensing body to get the most accurate information on signing up.

How do I get my scores?

Everything you submit is scored anonymously by trained evaluators, except Task 1, which is scored locally by a trained instructor. Tasks 2–4 are double-scored to ensure transparency and reliability. Scores are available online two weeks after each task deadline date, and teachers are free to resubmit modified artifacts and samples if a tester’s results do not initially meet the qualifying score. Each state or organization determines the passing scores it is looking for. You can find state-by-state teacher certification requirements on the ETS website.

Note that because the PPAT is in its pilot year, the rubrics used in 2014–2015 are subject to change in upcoming years. Evaluators are using information from the pilot program to potentially modify rubrics or set different evaluation benchmarks.

Student-teachers receive ongoing feedback throughout the assessment period from both their supervising instructor and teaching mentor in order to refine their skills. At the end of that time, teachers are given a professional growth plan, identifying areas of strength and areas needing improvement.

While the PPAT is a demanding assessment, it offers the opportunity for student-teachers to gain insightful feedback about their teaching practices from experienced educators. In contrast to a test that requires rote memorization, this exam series recognizes the growth process involved in teaching and enables student-teachers to improve their practice before entering the classroom.

For more information on PPAT, visit the ETS website. You can find more articles and ask questions about teaching here on Noodle.