Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comparing the educator's tests for RI, MA, and CT

Now the post I have been trying to put up, but needed to preempt with the previous entry.

After taking the Connecticut educator's tests (Praxis I and II), the Massachusetts educator's tests (MTEL Comm, Literacy and 007 English), and the Rhode Island educator's tests (a different Praxis II), I'm ready to give my verdicts, complaints, praises and suggestions.

The Most Difficult award (in terms of broad knowledge, depth, length, terminology, etc.) is awarded to Connecticut's Praxis II. Congratulations, CT.

The Longest award and The Most Specialized award go to Massachusetts.

The Easiest award (in terms of length, depth, terminology, etc.) goes to Rhode Island for their Praxis II. Sorry, RI.

Connecticut's test was comprehensive to say the least. It focused on everything from grammar and poetry to the names of characters in specific novels AND the names of the authors who wrote the 'canonized' books. It was extremely difficult and tested a very very very wide range of knowledge that could only be gained through at least four years of college and possibly additional years of study (as many Master's programs encourage students to take it closer to graduation to ensure they have been thoroughly prepared). It punched me in the gut and knocked me over the edge. I remember napping afterward. In all seriousness, it deserves its title. I have never studied so much for a test (given a list of 'possible topics, books and material to be covered' as its primary study guide), and had the breadth of my knowledge so thoroughly tested and tried. Overall, I give it a grade of A-/A.

Massachusetts' test was different than I expected it to be. I expected a test similar to Connecticut's Praxis II and in many ways it was, but in many ways it was a hue divergence. Nowhere was there a single question about poetry; nowhere were there questions about stereotypical canonized authors such as: Steinbeck, Hawthorne, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Dickens, Dickinson, or Frost; and, my biggest complaint, the test referred to Samuel Beckett as "an English memoirist and satirist." OK, Beckett was an Irish dramatist and poet who spent the majority of his life in exile in France. Sorry; I needed that outburst. It focused thoroughly on interpreting short passages for 'most nearest meaning,' and relating A LOT of passages to the themes of Romanticism and Classicism (at least 25 questions.) It seemed to exclude a lot of what I would think would be essential or crucial for an educator to know, was at times very redundant (see above), seemed to have some factual errors in it (also see above), but took the title for sheer length. All together, I spent more than 10 1/2 hours in testing the day I took the MTELs, so I can't fault the creators there. It was long and very difficult, but it didn't require ALL the knowledge Connecticut did. If you were an expert on Romanticism and Persian/Ancient Middle Eastern writers, you would not need to know much else. Overall I give it a B/B+ for all the reasons it succeeds and challenges, but also because it excludes so much that is necessary.

Rhode Island's test was specific in that it presented real-life situations that a future educator would encounter in the classroom. It then asked how would you address these concerns, or include this aspect into your lessons to improve the classroom or provide the necessary services to Student A or B. It was enjoyable as it really made me contemplate a lot of these situations and create innovative lessons and solutions. It was a beneficial in the end, but seemed to test your opinions, improvisation skills, and ability to write as much as possible in a two-hour period more than anything else. One could pass it without having to know the specific knowledge of the MTELs or the other Praxis II. It was definitely a test for an 'educator,' as opposed to a teacher of literature. One could take a lot of courses in Psychology and Education and do well on the test, perhaps even better than someone who has never taken coursework in Psychology or Education but has a Master's in Literature. Overall I give it a grade of C/C+ for the reasons stated above. It needs to be much more challenging and include more specifics about literature and language.

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