Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lent Challenge: TFA: Testing and the Education System

Note: Yes, I missed yesterday, but I am forgiving myself. I was at my uncle's house and someone crashed their car, thus causing a complete loss of cable service, including internet, starting around 7 PM last night. So, since I can blame it on someone else's a-a-a-alcohol use, I'm giving myself a pass. Also, recycled over on teachforus.

I really believe that the Praxis system is a load of crap. In case you are unfamiliar, here's my understanding of the basic certification process: first, every teacher must take the Praxis I. In a traditional teaching program, students are required to take the Praxis I at the beginning of their degree plan. From there, generally towards the end of their degree plan, teachers must take individual Praxis II exams. For example, I have to take 2 Praxis II, 2 hour exams: Elementary Education: Content and Knowledge and another one focused more on pedagogy. You may take both exams on the same day, but a lot of people opt to take them in stages. To become fully certified, teachers must also pass the third Praxis, where an official observes a teacher in the classroom.

However, they aren't the most effective tests, they are expensive, and they've become simply red tape.

I feel like I am pretty well versed at test taking, but I felt really uncomfortable taking a test without any prior knowledge or studying. However, pretty much every educator I've talked to has told me not to worry. At All. Turns out, they were right. The Praxis I was incredibly simplistic; I think a good test taking high schooler could do pretty well, but anyone who passes a few intro college classes should definitely pass. I just took the Content Knowledge Praxis II and (*knock on metaphorical wood*) I thought it was also easy; only the English section asked questions relating to actual teaching topics, such as language acquisition. To me, the Content Knowledge exam seemed redundant in a lot of ways to the Praxis I. I just don't see how these exams accurately predict teaching skill.
These three tests also cost about $150 each. A lot of people also spend an additional $30 on test prep because you must pass these tests to become a teacher. Because not as many students have to take the Praxis exams, they aren't given at as many places or as frequently as tests like the ACT or SAT. So, I've driven at least 2 hours for each of my Praxis exams, partially because of TFA's quick turn around compared to traditional teaching programs.

Of the people I chatted with during this round of Praxis exams, a large minority were already experienced teachers who had simply moved to a new state. After years of experience, not all of their certifications transferred, though some certifications would transfer. Other teachers simply wanted to gain certification in a new subject.

I'm not sure what would be a better system, honestly. I do think there should be a some kind of testing and a system of certification, just as we regulate the medical field. However, the current testing system is incredibly bloated. It doesn't make sense to test basically the same things in both the Praxis I and Elementary Content Knowledge. It doesn't make sense to require experienced teachers to shell out additional money and time for additional certification.

Of course, this all goes back to whether I am sufficiently prepared to teach even though I do not have a degree in education. Well....I think I will be by August, possibly more than the average traditionally educated teacher. But....I guess we will find out.

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