In the state of New Hampshire, all elementary teaching candidates must go through the same process to become teachers. This includes successfully completing the correct education, background checks, examinations, and applications. Though rigorous, these certification steps are meant to ensure that all teachers are prepared to enter the workforce.
Step 1 Enroll in a Teacher Education Program. Before advancing in their teaching careers, potential teachers must obtain a bachelor’s degree from an accredited teacher preparatory program. A list of approved schools in New Hampshire can be found on the website for New Hampshire’s Department of Education. This approval process is meant to guarantee that colleges and universities provide consistent and coordinated education for all prospective teachers.
No matter the concentration, all future teachers must enroll in classes that cover the technical aspects of teaching. From pedagogy and planning methods to history and technology, all technical coursework is meant to address the unique responsibilities a teacher may be given. Most importantly, education students must learn how to instruct math, science, language arts, and social studies classes at a highly efficient level.
Step 2 Get a criminal history background check. Because children are in the care of teachers, background checks for incoming educators are absolutely necessary in guaranteeing that the candidate is clear of any convictions on their record. New Hampshire’s policy requires fingerprinting before performing any lasting teaching or observation experience in a public or private school. Therefore, many college preparatory programs require that students begin the background check process before they are admitted to their elementary education program. Often, the school’s education program will facilitate and oversee the background check themselves and keep the information on file.
A multiple-school application for fingerprinting is encouraged for student teachers before entering the classroom so that they do not have to apply for a background check with every school they may work in. The application for a background check release form can be retrieved from any school district or teacher program’s office or New Hampshire’s Department of Education’s website.
Before beginning the fingerprinting process, the district or college will give the applicant a packet that includes the release form in addition to more specific guidelines and the actual fingerprinting card. The fingerprinting card must be notarized and then brought to a law enforcement agency, a certified school employee, or an agent at the Department of Safety. The school district or education program will forward the fingerprinting card and release form to the state police agency to perform the background check along with the $55.25 fee for the ink fingerprinting or $54.25 for the Livescan option.
The fingerprinting background check takes roughly 30 days to complete. The school or program will be notified of the results of the fingerprinting background check. Any applicant found to have a conviction or pending disposition in a child-related or major felony category will not be allowed to enter a school as a teacher or volunteer in New Hampshire.
Step 3 Take the Praxis examination. Elementary educators in New Hampshire are expected to take and pass standardized tests in order to obtain their teaching certificate. The exams are meant to show the academic abilities and preparedness of teaching candidates before they enter the workforce. As with many states, all prospective New Hampshire teachers are required to take a series of the Praxis exam, administered by the Educational Testing Service. Once the test has been taken, the scores are sent to the state’s certification offices.
Registering for the required tests are done via the Praxis website. Both exams have a 21-day retake policy. The test taker is responsible for the fees associated with the exam ($135 for the combined Core Academic Series and $115 for the Elementary Educator).
Praxis Core Academic Series
The first exam, required of all teachers regardless of concentration or subject area, is the Core Academic Series in writing, reading, and math. Test takers can take these tests as one large exam or separate the three into pieces. To consider passing, the applicant must score a 156 in Reading, 162 in Writing, and 150 in Math.
The reading exam is 85 minutes long with 56 multiple choice questions. Basic reading comprehension questions are meant to test the test taker’s ability to read and comprehend information in a variety of ways. Information regarding the specifics of the exam can be found in the Praxis test companion.
The writing exam is a bit more complex in diversity. The first part of the 100 minute exam is in multiple choice. In the second half, 30 minutes of time is allotted to answer 2 essay questions. Scoring of the essay is done by experienced English teachers. The test companion on the Praxis site contains a study guide and strategy list.
The final section is the mathematics exam consisting of 56 questions on geometry, algebra, and statistics. A virtual calculator is provided for test takers. The Praxis study guide also describes the variations of the questions, as well as specifics on the question’s subjects.
Praxis Content Area Exams
Becoming certified in elementary education requires that future teachers take and pass the content area exam through Praxis. Registering for the Elementary Education: Multiple Subject exam is typically done near the end of the student’s college preparatory program or before starting the student teaching experience.
The test is divided into three sub-tests similar to the Praxis Core tests. They include Math (passing score of 164), Language Arts (165), Science (159), and Social Studies (155). Most of the questions are more aimed on elementary teaching methodology of the subjects in addition to content understanding. Breakdown of what to expect is laid out on the Praxis website.
Preparing and studying for the content area can be done in several ways. ETS, the administrator of the tests, encourage study groups to help breakdown subject matter. ETS also offers paid study guides and subscription services that include practice exams.
Elementary student teachers are required to be present in an approved field experience classroom for a total of one year. Typically, the placements are divided among two placements each lasting a minimum of 66 days (or the equivalent of 66 days each). New Hampshire requires all teachers to complete at least 10 weeks of student teaching in order to be fully certified.
Becoming confident leading a class before the student teaching experience often does not come naturally and requires practice. In order to prepare for student teaching, it is often recommended that the future teacher take advantage of all in-school experiences offered through the teacher preparatory program’s coursework. Another strategy is to build observation hours in an approved classroom. Observing experienced teachers at work can provide the future student teacher with an opportunity to learn from a working classroom environment.
Step 5 Complete required documentation and Apply for Certification. There are four certificate versions applicant teachers can apply for. Alternative 1 is the traditional track for students completing a teacher preparatory program in New Hampshire. The certification process is done through the university and not the responsibility of the individual.
Applying teachers who have completed their student teaching experience, passed the Praxis I and Praxis II exams, submitted their fingerprinting background check, and have finished the required teacher education program must contact their school’s certification coordinator. The coordinator will then assist the student in submitting the correct application and provide the necessary university or college seal in order to certify that the application is complete.
The cost of the Alternative 1 certificate is a non-refundable $130. The check is made out to: State of New Hampshire and submitted with the application. The entire process from application to approval may take up to two months depending on the time it was submitted. More information regarding the distinction of the certification tracks is found on the New Hampshire Department of Education’s website.