Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

MA DESE’s Only Preferred MTEL Course Vendor

April 1st, 2020 | Comments Off on MA DESE’s Only Preferred MTEL Course Vendor | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Math Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

MTEL prep

No one disputes the fact that there is more and more pressure on public school educators to make a difference in the lives of the children they teach, no matter what level of professional experience they have. This applies to both elementary and secondary school students and first year and experienced teachers.

New teachers are most often targeted for improving their skills to ensure that they are as ready as they can be for their experience in the classroom. PrepForward is pleased to be a part of that preparation process. As one of the premier vendors for MTEL courses, PrepForward offers courses for educators to enhance and excel in their skills for educating students in classrooms across Massachusetts. PrepForward was chosen as MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s only preferred vendor for MTEL preparation courses. One important aspect of our work with MA DESE is to increase diversity in the teacher workforce.

We are committed to providing teacher preparation courses that aid educators in boosting their teaching skills before they even enter the classroom. This has the added benefit of equipping teachers to help students grow academically and to achieve student success in the classroom for those who may not be on the average spectrum. Students benefit from teachers who have a greater skill set and teachers benefit from increased knowledge to reach all types of learners.

The online classes we offer are designed so that, upon completion, educators can pass the MTEL exams. All courses introduce detailed lessons, full-length practice tests, question explanations, instructor support, 24-hour access, and interactive applications. Courses include general curriculum classes for general and middle-school mathematics, reading, and communication and literacy skills in reading and writing.

Since our program is an approved provider for the MA Department of Education, our courses are available for professional development points, as well. We are pleased to have helped thousands of educators across Massachusetts pass their MTEL exams.

MTEL Comm & Lit – Passing the Summary Exercise with Fidelity

April 25th, 2019 | Comments Off on MTEL Comm & Lit – Passing the Summary Exercise with Fidelity | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

Passing the Summary Exercise: Fidelity

Communication and Literacy Skills Test

On the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills Test, candidates are asked to complete a summary exercise.  In this article, I will share the most common errors I see and tips for making a solid score on the fidelity performance characteristic. 

A summary with fidelity gives a fair picture of the original. Common synonyms of fidelity are trustworthiness, dependability, and faithfulness. Your ability to give a representation that is loyal to the original will be evaluated in this trait. How can you do that?

You succinctly restate the main ideas and supporting details in your own words, omitting less relevant material so that your summary is considerably shorter than the original.

Steps to follow:

  • Understand the task. This summary is a “true” summary. Your task is to recap the original, preserving the content, tone, order, relationships, emphasis, and point of view. You accurately retell the article in your own words. Summarizing is a skill we practice from childhood. We use summary techniques to answer questions such as “What did you do at school today?” and “What’s that book about?” We don’t retell every event or every detail; we tell the most important ideas in our own words.
  • Read the original. Read with understanding, highlighting the main ideas and supporting points and formulating in your mind the overarching message.
  • Retell the original. In your words, retell the article, omitting the support and examples that may add interest but are not critical to the main idea. The power of your summary rests in your ability to discern what to include, what to leave out, and how to package the key details and ideas.
  • Check word choice, grammar, and mechanics. More about that in a later blog, but clean writing using precise vocabulary is always an asset.

 

Errors to avoid

  • Avoid starting with an author/title/main idea statement. This is not your seventh-grade book report. Instead, begin your summary with your rewording of the first main idea from the original. The original does not begin with a statement such as, “Ryan Heimbach’s article, ‘Deception,’ emphasizes…” When you give an accurate representation of the original, you should not begin with this type statement.
  • Avoid tagging the author. Tagging the author is a common strategy for a summary. I would caution you to use this strategy sparingly if at all. A “true” summary reflects only the content of the original. The original does not say, “In his article, Heimbach stated…” Statements like this burn words without adding content.
  • Avoid spinning. It is not your job to argue, interpret, analyze, or “give your spin” on the text. You merely give a concise picture. That’s why the test evaluators use the term, fidelity—be fair to the intent of the original.
  • Avoid mismatching relationships. If the original article says, “Parental involvement was shown to improve student productivity,” you cannot distort the relationship between ideas by saying, “Student productivity was shown to improve parental involvement.” Using words and ideas from the original is not enough. The relationship between the ideas has to be accurate. Ideas have to stay in context.
  • Avoid considering your audience. Your responsibility is to preserve the message. It’s not your responsibility to communicate in a way that appeals to a particular audience.
  • Avoid shifting verb tenses unnecessarily. Note the tense of the original. You will most likely write in present tense, or what is sometimes called “historic present.” Think about describing a piece of art. For example, “In American Gothic, a farmer is standing beside a woman who is thought to be his daughter or wife.” We describe art using present tense verbs; do the same for your summary. If the article you are assigned to summarize is written in past or future tense, your summary would follow suit.
  • Avoid introducing new ideas. No points for original ideas; in fact, you’ll lose fidelity points if you distort the original with your ideas.

On the MTEL CLST, a summary with fidelity gives a true picture of the original. It doesn’t talk at length about a minor point and then rush over a major point. It gives a brief accurate representation which reflects your ability to discern and synthesize.

 

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.
Other articles in series: Passing the Composition Exercise: Mechanics

“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.