Tested

I just wanted to give a brief summary of the hurdles I have had to go through in the past month in order to apply for New York State teacher certification. I am not doing this to whine publicly (well, not much, anyway…) but because I think everyone should know what NY asks of its teacher candidates.To be clear, all of this is above and beyond Syracuse coursework and existing requirements such as fieldwork and practicum. Here are the highlights:

  • EdTPA: This is a brand new requirement beginning in the spring of 2014. Although other states are considering this requirement, New York is so far the only state to fully implement EdTPA and require it of all teacher candidates. It involves a detailed unit plan, videotaping of several lessons delivered to students (plus all the permissions that requires), examples of lesson materials and assessments, and 30+ pages of detailed reflection. All this is submitted to Pearson to be evaluated (by whom? This is still unclear…) and a judgment made regarding my readiness to teach. Plus it costs $300. Although I have my doubts about the value of this requirement, I will say that I felt this project created an accurate picture of who I am as an educator, how I teach, and all that I have learned in library school.
  • Educating All Students and Academic Literacy Skills Tests: These are two standardized tests that are taken on a computer at a Pearson Professional Center (anyone noticing a trend?) They are made up primarily of multiple choice questions, though both do involve some writing in response to prompts. The first test measures a teacher candidate’s awareness of issues including teaching students with disabilities, English Language Learners, “gifted” students, etc. The second test is a more general measure of a candidate’s reading comprehension and writing skills. These tests cost $233 combined.
  • Content Specialty Test: Although this test is due for an update, as of this spring, candidates still take the “old” version. This is a paper and pencil test with questions at least ten years out of date. There is a specific test for each content area. As you might imagine, an outdated test for librarians barely mentions the internet, focusing instead on overhead projectors, film strips, etc. Besides being embarrassingly dated and irrelevant to the libraries of 2014, this test is badly written, with unclear multiple choice questions attempting to measure dispositions rather than facts. This joyful experience costs $79.
  • Child Health and Safety Exam: Although this is the shortest of all the tests, it covers a dizzying array of information, including fire safety, child abuse, transportation, substance abuse, playground safety, and just about anything else in the world that can cause injury to young people. Although I know that prospective teachers need to have an understanding of how to keep their students safe, I am not sure how much of this information will be retained after the test. I am already forgetting the details, and I took the exam just one week ago. This test, which can be taken through teacher preparation programs at various universities, is the only one that does not come with a financial cost.

So what is my point in agonizingly detailing these exams? I admit that the experience of spending countless hours in preparation, driving to test sites, and taking the exams themselves has left me with more questions than answers. Here are a few of the burning ones… What becomes of outstanding prospective teachers who may not have $612 on hand for these tests? Not to mention outstanding prospective teachers who struggle with test anxiety? Of course there should be rigorous standards for those entering the teaching profession, but I don’t think New York state should rely so heavily on money, inconvenience, or narrow multiple choice questions to narrow down the field. And then there’s the Pearson question. This large for-profit testing corporation now controls every stage of a teacher’s career, from determining who enters the profession to determining who is “succeeding” as a teacher based on student test scores. Is it right for any corporation to have so much power over the field of education? Might there be a better way? This post is getting awfully long, but perhaps I’ll devote my next post to offering a few possible solutions to these questions.

 

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