History of the PRAXIS Review Course

In the l980s, many Black professionals in the speech-language and hearing professions were concerned that African American graduate students were experiencing difficulty passing what was then called the National Examination in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology (NESPA) after earning their master’s degree. The situation was certainly alarming to the leadership of the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH).
In fact, in 1991, Kay Payne and Noma Anderson of Howard University documented in their study on the disparity between racial groups’ performances on the NESPA the fact that Blacks were not being as successful passing the examination as Whites. Payne and Anderson reported that in 1985, Black examinees had a 47% pass rate in contrast to a 70% pass rate by Whites. The mean score for Black examinees was 545, while the mean score for White examinees was 648, a difference of 108 points. Furthermore, they reported, even the passing score of Blacks was lower compared to White examinees, as Black examinees often obtained the minimum passing score of 600. Payne and Anderson went on to identify three variables that contributed to the lower performance of Black examinees in the NESPA- test taking skills, test anxiety and cognitive style. These factors apparently influenced the performance of minority groups and probably accounted for the disparity in test scores between Black and White examinees no matter the college program in which they matriculated. They concluded that the NESPA was a biased testing instrument, and that in its current form as a requirement for certification, the disparity between the performances of Black and White examinees will widen and reduce even more significantly the number of minorities entering the professions. And they stated that further research is needed to examine more intensely the source(s) of the low pass rate of minorities on the examination.
In an effort to address this issue, M. Eugene Wiggins, NBASLH’s executive director, created a three-day review course for graduate students, and for persons working in the speech-language pathology profession, who were in pursuit of becoming certified. The course was launched during the 1998 Annual Convention of NBASLH. The principal purpose of the course was to improve the scores of Black examinees on the NESPA; however, the course was always open to anyone interested in enrolling. Consequently, the course always consisted of a racially diverse group of participants from all over the country, including White students.

Thereafter, the review course was offered annually. With NBASLH Board of Directors approval, in 1996, the course was removed from NBASLH’s annual convention and scheduled twice a year in February and October to accommodate the demand for the course.  Eventually, the name of the examination was changed from the NESPA to PRAXIS as the Educational Testing Service, Inc (ETS). revised their tests and testing procedures. Likewise, the name of the review course reflected the changes in name and content. The attendance during the October sessions became sparse so the course returned to being offered annually in February until 2003 after M. Eugene Wiggins retired.
Michele L. Norman, volunteer for the National Office and former student of the review course, appealed to the NBASLH Board of Directors requesting to revive the course, acknowledging its importance to the community of students and new professionals requiring certification who continue to struggle on standardized tests, after learning that M. Eugene Wiggins was retiring and that the review course was going to be discontinued. With Board approval, Michele L. Norman along with Yolanda G. Fields, recruited many of the faculty from the original course and designed the review to be offered during the annual convention. The new review course, now called The Intensive Review for PRAXIS Examination in Speech-Language Pathology, was launched as a one-day course in 2003 at the NBASLH Annual Convention in Birmingham, AL. In 2004, Yolanda G. Fields continued as Convention Chair and Michele L. Norman continued as the Coordinator for the review course, which was now taught over two days. By 2005, the course design had expanded back to three days providing a review in all content areas indicated by ETS and could no longer be a part of the annual convention. We especially acknowledge the contributions of Kay Payne who served for 30 years. Her sessions on strategic test taking are essential to the course.
Now renamed as the Exam Review Course for SLP, it has returned to being a separate entity and is now offered virtually three times per year.  The course attendees continue to be racially diverse. Participants are encouraged to attend the Annual Convention in order to network and learn more about NBASLH, which has led to many of them becoming members. 
April 2023 marked the 35th Anniversary of the review course. The fact that NBASLH sponsored that review course 1988 in response to what was perceived to be a grave problem given the low passing rate of Blacks on the PRAXIS, and address it, is monumental. The fact that it continues to this day, reflects NBASLH’s long-term, exceptional leadership. We are indeed proud to have been members of that impressive, inspiring team of “wonderful professionals that care about each other. We recognize the commitment of the faculty that have volunteered, supported, and worked diligently to ensure that the attendees are well equipped to be successful in taking the examination. Their endurance and compassionate approach in making certain that each participant understood the information they shared is a poignant portrayal of an endearing endeavor to make a difference in the lives of others who so desperately wanted to rank among the certified professionals in speech-language pathology. 

The Exam Review Committee