19 May 2008

A Tale of Two Tests

So, in about a month, I'm sitting for two tests in order to add an elementary endorsement to my certificate. Because of the roundabout method of doing this, I actually have to add this endorsement to my Texas cert first...and then Washington. Each requires a different test. And they are very different tests.

Here is an example from the Washington test (note that this is considered a "rigorous" question):

Three-dimensional figures in geometry are called:

A. Solids
B. Cubes
C. Polygons
D. Blocks
You can see more mind-boggling questions here.

And here is a question from the Texas test:

The surface area of a cylindrical soup can is comprised of which of the following?

A. a rectangle and a circle
B. two little circles and a big circle
C. two circles and a rectangle
D. one rectangle
Other Texas questions are here; I'm taking test 101.

I have to say that the Texas test is far more challenging. I've put an "easy" question here, and while it is fairly straightforward, there is a bit more thinking involved. It's not just simple recall. Nearly all of the Texas questions are framed around a classroom scenario. It isn't enough to know the content, how would you teach it? What would you do about a child who was struggling with understanding surface area? Considering that the entire basis of certification is a test, I have to say that it seems like a much better approach.

Washington is going to ask me content area questions on literacy, math, science, and social studies. Texas has those, plus PE, music, art, and pedagogy in all of those areas.

I'm not worried about most of the content. The main area I need to beef up on is literacy. Yes, I use reading and writing strategies with students all the time---but they are teens. I have never had to actually teach someone how to read or how to write. So, I'll review on some of that, as well as some early childhood development info and be good to go. Also, I'm a good test-taker. I know how to work these questions, even if I don't know the specifics of what they're asking. So far, I've been getting ~85% on the practice tests just taking them cold. However, I'd like to be able to walk in for those exams with even more confidence.

At the end of the day, I still have to wonder if a test is really a worthwhile way to achieve certification. Yes, it's quick and simple (and pretty cheap as compared to actually taking classes and doing a practicum). Yes, good instruction is good instruction. Yes, a love of learning and children is vital. But there are just some things which come from experience---and I have precious little where working with small people is concerned. I feel like I will be in sheep's clothing, adding this endorsement to my resume to expand my marketability; however it is not awkward enough to make me stop my pursuit. I don't make the rules. I just want to help teachers and kids. If playing the game by telling the tale of two tests is the road I have to travel, so be it.

No comments: