With recent changes to teacher certification exams in Texas, faculty and staff in the College of Education and Human Development developed a program to help pre-service teachers succeed.
During the summer of 2015, the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) approved changes to teacher certification exams requiring early childhood students to complete a “core subjects” exam instead of a more general exam. This new test is designed to assess whether the student has the requisite knowledge and skills that an entry-level educator must possess across five subjects: English language arts and reading & the science of teaching reading; mathematics; social studies; science; and fine arts, health and physical education.
Before the changes took place, pre-service teachers could be weak in one subject but perform better in others in order to pass. Now, each content area is its own exam and a pre-service teacher must pass the exams within five attempts.
“It becomes a really interesting challenge for those of us that are on the hook for getting people certified because the state doesn’t care who did the content teaching. We are responsible for making sure that they have the content knowledge,” explained Dr. Chris Cherry, assistant dean for undergraduate academic affairs.
According to CEHD policy, during the last semester before clinical teaching, students are required to pass their primary content certification exams in order to be admitted to clinical teaching. Either before or during their clinical teaching semester, students are required to take the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam. Passing both the content exams and PPR exam is a requirement for certification.
Despite recent changes made on the state level, students in the College of Education and Human Development are performing very well. The college is ranked first in the state in teacher certifications, producing 952 certificates in the 2014-2015 school year. 99 percent of students in the college pass their certification exams. Faculty and staff are working to ensure continued success.
“The faculty are keenly aware of the changes that are going on. As they have the opportunity to revamp their curriculum, they are doing so with this in mind. What we can do more quickly is what Misti came up with. We are affording these students the opportunity to take a swing at the test in a simulation, zero stakes environment,” explained Dr. Cherry.
Misti Corn, certification officer for the College of Education and Human Development. and Dr. Cherry worked to develop a program that gives pre-service teachers the opportunity to take a practice test in a simulated environment. The hope is that the pre-service teachers are able to work out their nerves and get a closer look at the content.
“The students are able to get a feel for the test and understand what content will be there. It’s one thing to know there is going to be history on the test, but it’s another thing to be surprised by the types of questions,” explained Dr. Cherry.
The program started in Spring 2016 with four sessions. Each session was fully booked with others on waiting lists. Corn is working on securing space and several dates during the fall semester to accommodate others needing to prepare for their exams. She is confident the program will continue as long as there is a need.
“As long as we can feasibly do it, as long as we have the space and the manpower, I say we are going to keep doing it,” said Corn. “Our faculty is very good about making sure our students know the importance of these exams. Everyone that is going to hire you has access to see how well you did on these exams. It has a high impact on their career and I think they respect that and take that very seriously.”