Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

How More Teachers Can Pass Licensing Exams the First Time

May 28th, 2019 | Comments Off on How More Teachers Can Pass Licensing Exams the First Time | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Although prospective teachers work diligently in their teacher prep programs, more still needs to be done to prepare them for their first teaching assignment in a real-life classroom of their own. A National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report published earlier this year states that over half of elementary teacher candidates do not pass licensing tests due to insufficient preparation in college coursework.

Expanding the teacher workforce becomes even more challenging when teachers want to teach but are unable to attain a position because of poor exam scores. The same report found that only 46% of individuals pass licensing tests with African American candidates passing at 38%. This leads to gaps in teacher diversification across the country, as well as a shortage of qualified educators.

Most of these teacher candidates have significant holes in content knowledge that contribute to poor performance on standard licensing tests. NCTQ reports that about ¾ of the undergraduate teaching programs in the United States do not cover the amount of mathematical knowledge required for elementary teachers, while 1/10 do not adequately contain enough English basics.

Individuals enrolled in university teacher training programs should take courses that meet four attributes to ensure that they are adequately prepared not only to graduate but pass a licensing exam:

  1. Relevant to current teaching practices and topics found in elementary classrooms.
  2. Feasibly taught in one or two semesters rather than touching only on the basics in a broader course.
  3. Offer an assortment of content that teachers may need to know.
  4. Focus on the content and how to teach it.

Although teacher candidates can take courses that lack one or more of the above characteristics and they can be beneficial, these classes may not fit into an already heavy course schedule. Core knowledge is of primary importance and concern.

Many times, institutions of higher learning already offer relevant courses, so they don’t need to create new ones. Instead, teacher education programs should adjust their parameters to include general education classes to satisfy program requirements and help to ensure that future teachers can pass licensing exams anywhere in the country and be confident for the classroom.

Click here for more information on PrepForward’s teacher certification preparation courses.

MTEL Comm & Lit – Finding the Purpose and Meaning of Text

March 7th, 2019 | Comments Off on MTEL Comm & Lit – Finding the Purpose and Meaning of Text | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

You will need to be highly capable in navigating complexities in written text to pass the MTEL Communications and Literacy Skills Test. At the heart of every piece of writing is a message, either stated or unstated. Readers who can identify the author’s purpose, point of view, and audience (Objective 3) are best equipped to get at the “real” meaning. On licensure tests, time is also a factor. So now you need to be both speedy and highly competent with textual nuances.

Try these strategies:
• Connect every test question to a test objective.
The MTEL does not set out to disguise the intent of the questions. Look in the question for the specific, targeted vocabulary from one of the stated test objectives. Questions for Objective 3 will likely ask, “the purpose,” “the main purpose,” “the audience of,” or “the point of view.” Be wise to questions that substitute a synonym or derivative such as, “main reason” or “is intended to.”

• Dissect for purpose.
You can safely assume that every word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph of the texts is included by design. When a question states, “Information in paragraph 2 is intended to __,” you’ll need to be able to size up quickly what would be missing if that paragraph were omitted. General classification of text “to entertain,” “to persuade,” or “to inform” will be insufficient.

• Think DOK wheel.
Whatever your personal feelings about the usefulness of the DOK (depth of knowledge) wheel, it is a tidy list of verbs that state intent and purpose. It contains words such as classify, illustrate, dispute, and assess. As you read an exam text the first time, make some side notes about the different paragraphs. Be so thoroughly familiar with DOK verbs that the specific intent of a word, statement, or paragraph rolls off your tongue.

• Look for strong feelings.
Point of view on the exam deals almost exclusively with informational text. You’re looking for the writer’s belief system, not identifying a character’s point of view as first person or third person limited. You can find the point of view by analyzing word choice, obvious statements of belief, and omissions. (What is the author not stating?) Background information on the author can be useful in identifying the author’s point of view. Recognizing the text as biased or unbiased also falls under author’s point of view.

• Get beyond the words.
To find the author’s intended meaning, you’ll need to get beyond the stated words on the page and find the “real” meaning. Particularly in satire, words may state the opposite view of the author. (Is Jonathan Swift really suggesting that children be sold and eaten when he states, “no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat”? A Modest Proposal, 1729)

• Know the audience.
Each text on the CLST test is written with an audience in mind. The audience could be that catch-all, “general audience” or it could be an audience that brings specific background knowledge to the text. Everything from the textual appearance to the genre to the sentence structure can give away the author’s intended audience. Why is the audience significant? It plays into the author’s purpose. Know the audience and you have another tool to get at the subtleties of the author’s purpose and meaning.

Your analytical skills will need to be sharp. The exam texts will be difficult. Breathe deep. Know what you’re looking for. Succeed.

Countdown to Teacher Licensure Exam

October 1st, 2018 | Comments Off on Countdown to Teacher Licensure Exam | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

As you approach your teacher licensure exam, you can take specific actions that will ensure you are confidently prepared to test. You want to show up on your state’s annual pass rate report in the pass column rather than in the fail column.

You have been anticipating this exam since your first education course your freshman year of college. Now, you find that the time has come to reserve your exam day and make your final preparations. What’s your plan?

Determine the required tests. Exam requirements vary wildly from state-to-state. Ideally, six months before you want to test, you’ll set aside a two-hour block to read every word of your state’s education department website that relates to specifications for certification.

Review the entire set of test objectives and descriptive statements. You can find the test objectives on the website of the test provider for your state.

Try some practice questions. The test provider, your state education department, and/or your university will have a few sample questions on their websites. Again, set aside a block of time—this time to test. Review your results. Determine where you stand.

Review your coursework. Every reputable education course has some content which appears on teacher licensure tests. Commonly, instructors flag the content that aligns to the stated test objectives. Review the content flagged in your coursework.

Feel overwhelmed. And, yes, that is a required step. If you do not find yourself overwhelmed with the enormity of preparing for a licensure exam, you have underestimated the gravity of the task ahead of you. Some licensure tests have pass rates in the 50% range. Absorb that thought and rush to your next step.

Take a test prep course. PrepForward, for example, states, Our courses have been proven to boost performance on licensing exams. Our pass rates are near perfect.” We recommend that you get the prep course several months in advance to allow yourself to benefit from all features of the course. In addition to lessons, you’ll find scores of sample questions with in-depth explanations. Instructors are available. Using all features of the course works provides substantial benefit. If you’re down to your last weeks and days, while it’s not your best option, it may be time to cram. Prep courses provide you with a succinct one-stop source for coaching.

Acquire physical and mental stamina. Check the time allotted for your test. Use your test prep course to practice sustaining a mentally-demanding activity for the allotted test time. During that time, be conscious of your restroom breaks, avoid eating, avoid diversions such as checking phone messages. Maintain focused attention on your one task.

Every year, thousands of candidates follow these or similar steps to pass their teacher licensure exams. Get started today on making sure your next career step is a positive one.

 

Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate?

July 3rd, 2018 | Comments Off on Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

For the first time in decades, teacher licensure has become easier rather than more difficult in multiple states. Teacher shortages have pushed legislators to re-evaluate the high scores that have been required at various levels of teacher preparation. It’s not too difficult to imagine returning to a time when candidates were deemed qualified for their first year of teaching by completing course work, a single basic test, and student teaching under a master teacher.

Once upon a time, your only ticket into a teaching career was to pass licensure tests. Now, you’re looking at the reality that you may not have to pass as many licensure tests—or at least not with a score that required selling your soul for a year of grueling preparation.

Given the potential for more reasonable requirements, are you wise to prepare or to wait it out? I’m going with the unpopular answer of—you still need to prepare and work for the highest score possible. Let’s consider some reasons.

Economics:

Educators and legislators alike suspect that one factor driving teacher shortages is money. The level of attention being given to teacher salaries, benefits, and retirement plans is unprecedented. Ideally, the attention that teacher compensation has attracted will result in greater revenue. If that happens, more candidates with higher qualifications are likely to be drawn to teaching. At that point, states may be able to revert to or maintain high requirements and still keep their teachers. Securing a high test score makes sure you’re qualified not just during a temporary teacher shortage, but for the long term as well.

Content Mastery:

Teachers have to be good at so many things. You need to be able to communicate, organize, motivate, entertain, and manage resources, just to name a few. Did I mention teach?? With so many demands, you don’t also want to be wrangling with the academics. You can take some stress off the daily demands by becoming a master in your content area. Mastery of the content was one of the intents of licensure testing. Push for that mastery now—don’t put it off until you’re in the classroom.

Career:

It’s hard to predict the next turn that will be made to guarantee high quality teachers who can provide an excellent education to American students. While requirements may shift at least temporarily, the future of teacher certification is unknown. Hitting the high standards of today may turn into one of the best career moves you could make.

 

Do yourself, your students, and your career the courtesy of meeting the high requirements of today. Be wary of an attitude that rejoices at lowering requirements for teachers. Strive to be the one that can earn a top score on the test and then transfer your pursuit of excellence on to your students.

Dodging Distractors on Foundations of Reading, Part 2

October 25th, 2017 | Comments Off on Dodging Distractors on Foundations of Reading, Part 2 | Certification Prep, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog

As you are preparing for the Foundations of Reading test, think back to your coursework on creating assessments. In addition to the open response, the FORT is made up of 100 multiple-choice questions. Understanding the mechanics of a good, critical thinking multiple choice question can help you to choose the best alternative and dodge the distractors.

Test makers often create distractors from what they know to be misconceptions of their testing pool. Consider the following distractors.

  • Guided repeated oral reading is an important part of a balanced literacy program for students who are reading with fluency and automaticity.
  • Confusion between spelling of wait and weight demonstrated the student’s weakness in phonology.
  • The student’s reading “the play started” with the miscue of “the play start” could best be addressed by teaching inflected phonemes such as -ed.
  • The student’s pronunciation of courageous as /ker- ay -gus/ demonstrates a lack of awareness of phonological shift in a derived form.

Do you see any problems? The problem is that the distractors themselves have errors.

  • Guided repeated oral reading is indeed an important part of a balanced literacy program, but not for student who are reading with fluency and automaticity. Once a student has reached fluency, guided repeated oral reading is no longer generally considered to be a best strategy.
  • Phonology is the systematic organization of sounds. It does not include spelling.
  • An inflected ending such as -ed is a morpheme, not a phoneme. The morpheme -ed contains two phonemes: /e/ and /d/.
  • The student who pronounced courageous with a long a sound made the phonological shift from the root form courage to the derived form accurately. The /j/ sound of courageous does not shift from the root form courage.

Multiple-choice questions on the FORT are designed to test your knowledge and critical thinking skills. They will require that you have mastered vocabulary and that you can apply strategies to classroom situations.

One way you can eliminate a distractor from consideration is if it contains an error. Apply all those comprehension strategies that you are teaching your students: monitoring, rereading, metacognition. Search out the traps and avoid them.

Are you looking for additional resources to help you prepare for the Foundations of Reading exam? We have a full-length comprehensive course that provides instruction, practice, and expert support. Best of luck.

Dodging Distractors on Foundations of Reading Exam

October 10th, 2017 | Comments Off on Dodging Distractors on Foundations of Reading Exam | Certification Prep, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog

In addition to mastering the content for the Foundations of Reading teacher certification test, you can also be wise to some testing strategies. Multiple choice questions are made of a stem and alternatives. One of the listed alternatives will be the best answer while the others will be distractors.

Here is a tip to help you use the question to find the best answer: Compare the information in the stem to the alternatives. You should be able to eliminate some options with information in the stem. Consider the following:

Lily is a sixth grader who reads grade-level narrative with fluency. Despite receiving a superior rating on her science project on coding, she read a passage on a similar topic hesitantly. She stopped frequently and reread words, phrases, and entire sentences. She performed poorly on comprehension questions over the passage. Based on her profile, which of the following approaches is most likely to help her?

A. Introduction of key vocabulary words
B. Direct instruction on comprehension strategies
C. Instruction on understanding academic language structures
D. Provision of a graphic organizer to map story elements

The exam requires critical thinking. Take the information you’ve been given and draw some conclusions.

Is the problem content vocabulary (A)? Probably not. The stem tells you that Lily got a superior rating on her science project. We can assume that research on the project would provide sufficient background knowledge and vocabulary for grade level informational text.

Is the problem her comprehension strategies (B)? Probably not. Again, the stem tells you that she stops and rereads. Rereading is a valid comprehension strategy. Don’t be tempted to bite here because of her poor performance on comprehension questions. Comprehension problems are often more complex than just use of the usual strategies of rereading, visualizing, and paraphrasing.

Is the problem academic language (C)? Maybe. Academic language is a broad term that includes the language that students need to do well in school. It includes vocabulary, grammar, literary devices, signal words, sentence structure, etc. This could be the problem. We know Lily reads narrative fluently and informational text hesitantly. Don’t assume that because she has the vocabulary she also has the skills to pick up on signal words and interpret complex sentences.

Is the problem with analyzing story elements (D)? No. Story elements are a component of narrative text. Lily’s struggle is with reading informational text.

After comparing all the alternatives with the stem, you can definitely rule out A and D. Given that the question indicates that Lily is using comprehension strategies and gives no indication of her ability to process complex academic language, addressing academic language structure weaknesses is the best approach.

You’ll need to be on guard for irrelevant material in the question stem, but more often than not, the stem provides valuable information you can use to dodge the distractors.

Are you looking for additional resources to help you prepare for the Foundations of Reading exam? We have a full-length comprehensive course that provides instruction and practice. Best of luck.