Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

Overcoming Low Pass Rates on Teacher Certification Exams

March 26th, 2018 | Comments Off on Overcoming Low Pass Rates on Teacher Certification Exams | Certification Prep, Math Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Consider some 2017 pass rates on required tests for teachers: 25% on the ILTS Test of Academic Proficiency,  (https://www.isbe.net/Documents/TAP_PassRates400_20170101_20170331.pdf), 43% for MTEL General Curriculum Math subtest, and 40% on the MTEL Foundations of Reading exam (http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/results/2017-1119.html). Content and basic skills tests are formidable for students attempting to enter teacher licensure preparation programs and for graduates of those 4-year licensure programs.

With appalling failure rates, you may be wondering who is accountable. The answer is: the one who takes the test. Your licensure test results will have one name at the top—yours. You and you alone are ultimately accountable. You pass, or you fail. A host of stakeholders from the Department of Education to the university to professors to high schools to students may be partially responsible for the results; but only you experience the full benefit or curse of your score.

Set your house in order.

If you are pursuing a career in education, you need to set your house in order. Since you are the one accountable, you might as well accept that, on many state licensure tests, the odds are not in your favor. It’s time to get dead serious about what it takes to pass.

Emotional Resilience

Statistically, chances are that you’ll need to take a required test more than once. Don’t be disheartened. You share a common experience with teacher candidates nationwide. If you open a disappointing score, you’ll need the inner strength to not give up. Though costly, you could attempt the test every month in hopes of getting lucky or learning from your mistakes; however, showing up month after month probably won’t be enough. A better plan is to take charge of own sphere of knowledge, making changes that will prepare you academically. Dispense with self-doubt. Create your own success.

Directed Preparation

Candidates, desperate for passing scores, have created quite a demand for prep support for licensure tests. Start with the website for your state’s Department of Education. From there, you can find information about tests required for your career. Licensure test sites, such as those generated by Pearson, provide test objectives and practice tests with annotated answer keys. You may be able to find an additional free practice test. Exhaust your free sources including free trial courses; then consider your level of preparedness. Are you ready to take the test? Can you get ready with resources you have available? Do you need additional instruction through a prep course or a content course?

Take time to plan smart for the test: focus on all those little test-taking tips such as simulating the testing situation on your practice test, wearing layers of clothing on test day, and familiarizing yourself with the testing site.

Rigorous Academics

Not to be repetitive, but statistics suggest that passing your course work will be insufficient. Your GPA won’t help you pass your licensure tests. Mastery of the content of your classes will help. That means you need to start now considering every class in your major to be fundamentally necessary for passing the tests. Additionally, in the event that your coursework does not align with the test objectives, you have self-study ahead of you. Your self-study may be as simple as perusing a college textbook, or it may be as costly and time consuming as taking an online or traditional course.

As you set your house in order, remember that thousands of newly-licensed teachers enter the workforce each year. With emotional resilience, purposeful preparation, and rigorous academics, you can be fully credentialed for next school year.

View PrepForward’s teacher certification preparation solutions.

 

How to Prepare for MTEL Exams

February 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on How to Prepare for MTEL Exams | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

teachers taking examThe MTEL exam was designed to ensure that educators have the academic preparedness to succeed in a school community. You’ll need both academic proficiency and professional communication skills. Qualifying scores on the required tests indicate that you are knowledgeable in your respective areas of expertise and able to communicate clearly with students and their parents or guardians. Understandably, passing such all-encompassing tests is a challenge that requires teacher candidates to prepare thoroughly. Here is some advice on how best to prepare.

Understand the Process

Familiarize yourself with the state requirements and gather relevant material in your subject area. Look at the MTEL Test Information Guide and Test Objectives for information on each kind test. You’ll find samples of “weak” and “strong” essay answers, multiple choice practice tests, and thorough question analyses. With these resources, you should have a better understanding of the expectations for passing each test.

Establish a Timeline

Think ahead before you register for your test. You don’t want to make the mistake of registering for the Communication and Literacy Skills exam and the content test on the same day. You’ll need time to study for each one separately. Also, plan to take the MTEL CLST well in advance of your application for admission to a program. You’ll be notified of your score six weeks after taking your test, and you’ll want to allow time to retake the test if necessary.

Begin Smart, Purposeful Preparation

The right MTEL prep courses can help you establish your plan of action. Consider taking a practice test which offers a realistic picture of where you stand and where you need improvement. The best trial tests are timed, adhere closely to the test objectives stated on the MTEL website, and follow the correct format. Taking a rigorous trial test in an environment you simulate to duplicate the actual testing site can make you more prepared on test day. Part of the challenge of the MTEL is dealing with the anxiety. A couple timed tests, and you'll be much more relaxed with required test pace. Then, don’t ignore your test results. Tackle your weak spots. Refer back to specific college courses, follow a prep course, or conduct your own research to learn more about the objectives you need to master.

If you follow these rules, you’ll be in a good position to pass the MTEL and get started with your career. Good luck!

 

 

Passing the Composition Exercise: Usage

December 18th, 2017 | Comments Off on Passing the Composition Exercise: Usage | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Writing Certification

PrepForward provides online preparation courses to candidates practicing compositions for state teacher tests, including the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills exam in MA. In this series, I’ll share the most common errors I see and tips for making a solid score on each performance characteristic.

“Careful and precise”—that’s the expectation for usage on the MTEL exams composition essay. To achieve a top score, candidates can demonstrate mastery of two different but related word choice skills: selection of academic language and maintenance of error-free usage.

Usage – Language

Your use of academic language and domain-specific vocabulary are assessed under the characteristic Usage. While writing to the audience is rated under the Appropriateness criteria, audience must also be considered with word choice. If your composition is to be directed toward educators, which it likely is, it should incorporate educator-ese —those words you hear at professional development conferences: assessment, learning gap, pedagogical, curriculum-centered, and so on.

Tips:
Build your vocabulary. Read scholarly journals. Make a mental or physical list of domain-specific vocabulary. Become comfortable using the words in speech or writing.
Remember word choice. As you’re concentrating on development, unity, and appropriateness, don’t forget that usage is just as important as any other point. Assessors will read your composition looking specifically at your word choice. Make sure they find what they are looking for.
Skim the test passages. If you have time and you know you need more precise words, skim back through the test passages looking for a few interesting words. Replace general vocabulary in your composition with exact, vivid language.

Usage – Grammar

Writing must be free of grammatical errors. Watch out for these trouble spots.

Pronoun/antecedent agreement Sample error: Everyone in the test group met their goals. NO! Everyone is singular; it takes a singular pronoun such as his, her, or its. If you want to avoid the awkward his/her, try switching the antecedent to a plural. (Correction: Students in the test group met their goals.)
Troublesome words Do I mean affect or effect, continual or continuous? Ideally, you can recall the definition and choose the correct word. If not, substitute a different word.
Pronoun reference Sample error: In the standards, it says students should master two-digit addition. NO! What does it refer to? Revise to avoid a pronoun reference error. (Correction: The standards indicate that students should master two-digit addition.)
Subject/verb agreement Sample error: The first two characters in the novel is Gretchen and Beatrice. NO! Use a plural verb with a plural subject. (Correction: The first two characters in the novel are Gretchen and Beatrice.)
Modifiers Sample error: While evaluating test results, students were found to be well prepared in math. NO! The students aren’t evaluating the test results. (Correction: While evaluating test results, teachers found that the students were well prepared in math.)
Parallelism Sample error: The student demonstrated skill in vocabulary, mechanics, and he could decode. NO! Compound parts, or parts with similar meanings, should be written with similar grammatical structure. (Correction: The student demonstrated skill in vocabulary, mechanics, and decoding.)

Before submitting your exam, read aloud or mouth your composition. If a sentence or phrase sounds awkward, stop and smooth it out. In the process, you’ll sharpen your writing and earn a solid score reflecting your “careful and precise” usage of language and grammar.

Getting My MA Teaching License

November 29th, 2017 | Comments Off on Getting My MA Teaching License | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Securing your first teaching license can feel like navigating a winding, endless path to an uncertain destination. The journey, however, need not be ambiguous at all. The MA Department of Education (http://www.doe.mass.edu/educators/) has quite efficiently outlined the steps you must take. The requirements can feel daunting and rigorous, but they are part of the process of verifying that every classroom teacher is equipped for handling the responsibility of educating Massachusetts’ youth.

Massachusetts has established multiple pathways to teacher licensure. The purpose of each pathway is to verify that Massachusetts educators are academically and professionally prepared to instruct students. In the simplest terms, securing a Massachusetts teaching license requires completing coursework, passing teacher exams, and applying through ELAR.

License Requirements
This tool from the Massachusetts DOE will help you determine the requirements for your license.
https://gateway.edu.state.ma.us/elar/licensurehelp/LicenseRequirementsCriteriaPageControl.ser Your license will most likely require the list of items below.

Bachelor’s Degree
The MA Department of Education requires that licensed educators earn a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university. Your degree may be a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science and it may be in a variety of majors.

Approved Teacher Program
Teacher candidates must complete a state-approved educator preparation program in the field and grades for which they will be licensed. Education programs are typically found in 4-year colleges or universities. The course work includes training in instructional strategies, curriculum, technology, and assessment.

MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills
This test is a requirement for all pre-K to grade 12 licensed teachers. It has two subtests: reading and writing. The reading subtest is multiple choice; the writing subtest is a combination of multiple choice, sentence correction, and open response.

MTEL Academic Subject Matter
Depending on your field and grade level, you will also need to pass MTEL licensing tests. Early Childhood educators must pass both the MTEL Early Childhood test and the MTEL Foundations of Reading test. Elementary teachers must pass the MTEL General Curriculum test and MTEL Foundations of Reading. In grades 5-12, tests align with the field of study. For example, biology teachers must pass the biology content test and mathematics teachers must pass the mathematics test. Some alternate tests are listed on the MTEL (Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure) page of the DOE site. http://www.doe.mass.edu/mtel/testrequire.html

Massachusetts Sheltered English Immersion
In July of 2014, SEI Teacher Endorsement became a licensure requirement. One way to complete this requirement is by passing the SEI teacher exam offered through MTEL. http://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA056_TestPage.html. Another option for securing the endorsement is completion of a course approved by the DOE. The course covers such topics as the structure of language, significant factors in language acquisition, principles and strategies for sheltered English immersion, and information about English language learner population. Courses are readily available throughout Massachusetts. (For listing of approved courses, visit http://www.doe.mass.edu/retell/For-Cost.html).

Application
Massachusetts has established the web based system ELAR (Educator Licensure and Recruitment) http://www.mass.gov/edu/gateway/ to manage the licensure application process. You can submit paperwork, pay fees, and gain access to information regarding the status of your teacher licensure through ELAR.

You can also review PrepForward’s solutions for MA educators.

Graphing Fun – Math Teacher Certification

November 14th, 2017 | Comments Off on Graphing Fun – Math Teacher Certification | Certification Prep, Math Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog

Most teaching licenses will require that you pass a certification exam with math concepts. Thoughts of this test often induce fear and stress in even the most talented prospective teachers. Ensuring that you have a deep understanding of the math fundamentals will alleviate this anxiety and help you pass your exam. One topic that many struggle with is graphing linear equations. Let’s review the basics.

Linear equations make straight lines when graphed. The equations can all be written in the format y = mx + b, where m is the slope and b is the y-intercept. The slope describes how slanted the line is and the y-intercept is the point where the line will cross the y-axis.

On these certification exams, you may see a couple problems where you are asked to match a graph to an equation. Here is one possible approach.

  1. Start by determining whether the slope is positive or negative.
    If you are looking at a graph, if the line goes up when looking at it from left to right, then it has a positive slope. If the line goes down, it has a negative slope. Once you determine the sign of the slope, look at the equation when it is in the form y=mx+b and determine whether the m has the same sign. See if you can eliminate any answer choices.
  2. Find the y-intercept.
    The next easiest thing to identify about a linear graph is the y-intercept. Look at the y-axis (the vertical one) and determine the point where the line crosses the x-axis (the horizontal one). Compare this value to the y-intercept in the equation that is represented by the variable b. See if any answer choices can be eliminated.
  3. Determine the slope.
    Pick any two points on the line and write down their coordinates. Then, figure out the slope by calculating the rise over the run or the change in y over the change in x. Find the difference in the y-values divided by the difference in the x-values. This slope is represented by m in the standard equation, y = mx + b. Using the slope and y-intercept, find your answer.

If after following this approach you still have two or more viable options, you can always try different points. Remember, a graph represents all the points that make the equation true. If you are struggling, just pick a point on the graph and plug the coordinates into the equation. If the equation does not work for a coordinate pair that is graphed, then that equation can’t represent the graph.

I hope you find some helpful tips in this quick review of graphing linear equations. We have full-length comprehensive teacher prep courses for all topics on your teacher certification exams if you need help preparing. Best of luck.