Thursday, March 19, 2009

MTEL/DOE infinite loop, or dead end?

I've signed up to take more MA licensure exams in May, this time Foundations of Reading and ESL. In a similar fit of validation craving three years ago, I took the Communications and Literacy and English Literature exams (described here), which allowed me to get the English Lit preliminary teaching license.

Communications and Literacy is required for all subjects. Foundations of Reading is required for specialties such as Reading Specialist and Moderate Disabilities. In the case of popular tests such as these, the testing company provides practice tests which, if memorized or at least studied carefully, effectively function as source material.

For most exams however, there is no practice test, only a "Test Information Booklet" (list here). The booklets essentially reiterate the requirements set down by the state (here). The booklet for the ESL exam has a couple of example questions. Here is one:

In the early stages of second-language development, which of the following factors in the classroom environment is most likely to lower English learner's affective filters, thereby lowering their inhibitions about using English?

Which brought my little question to mind--where to get a listing of source material to study, to prepare for questions of this nature? I called the DOE and after the usual wait and poke through the menus reached a human to ask this question. As soon as she heard the word "test", she said oh we don't have anything to do with the tests, call the testing company here is their number goodbye.

So I called the testing company (ex-National Evaluation Systems since taken over by Pearson Education Inc., in Amherst MA, to which the DOE has outsourced the creation of all these exams, and which is hiding behind a web site designed to look like part of the DOE) and the woman said, it's all on the web site. Well no it isn't I say. All you list are the requirements--you must understand this, you must understand that, with no corresponding mention of what materials you should avail yourself of, to gain this understanding. It says on your web site after all that "on this site you'll find test preparation materials". She repeated, all we have is on the web site. You could also, she said, check with the school dept. where you're interested in working. I said, I would look for an available job once licensed, not the other way around. Furthermore, it's supposed to be a standardized, state-wide test so by definition not dependent upon the recommendations of a particular school dept. Finally, the school depts. are of course part of the DOE, who directed me to you in the first place!

Frustrated at this dead end, I asked to be connected to a supervisor. You can't do that of couse, but a supervisor will call you back. Which they did while I was out. They effectively repeated what the first woman said (they even said so). Their suggestion was that I ask "coworkers" who had taken the test before, what they had studied. Assuming I have or had coworkers who knew anything about any of this. And that it's their policy not to endorse specific training materials. How convenient for them!

Apparently it is not the responsibility of either the DOE or the testing company to provide a listing of materials you should use to prepare for one of their tests! It's a perfect closed system--self-contained and impenetrable.

1 comment:

Bozo the Cat said...

Ah yes, the infinite loop, the circular circularity. And that old saying that is supposed to be funny but not taken seriously: You can't get there from here. Well, it's true. Kafka was prescient, even if he didn't coin that phrase. But if you read "Conversation with a Supplicant" you will see how well he informed Ionesco.

So they wouldn't let you be a poodle on LinkedIn? They took the time and trouble to examine every picture out of thousands to see if a poodle was hiding in there? How do they know you don't look like a poodle? Presumptuous poltroons they are. The textual content can be facetious twaddle, but they don't worry about that, it must be in line with their standards. However god forbid you look like a poodle. This cannot be permitted. Verboten!

Damned foolishness.