Saturday, January 05, 2008

Idiots Who Would Be Teachers

There are many hoops through which one must jump before becoming a California teacher. The first is a bachelor's degree, and the second is passing the dreaded California Basic Educational Skills Test, or CBEST.

The CBEST has three parts: reading comprehension, essay writing (when I took it, my essay prompt was to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper), and math. The math is at most at the 7th grade level, which is even lower than that required for California's high school exit exam.

I know this sounds harsh, but anyone with a bachelor's degree who can't pass that test is an idiot. Yet there are plenty of people who don't pass it, and they get to take it over and over until they do. In fact, they only have to retake those portions of the test that they previously failed--yet they get the full 5 hours (or whatever) to retake only those portions.

If I had my way, I'd impose the following rule: fail any part of the CBEST, and you cannot retake it for one year--and then, you must retake the entire test. Again, allow me to be blunt: do you really want people who perform at a level lower than the high school exit exam potentially teaching students? Do you really want to justify why an English teacher with a bachelor's degree (someone who in theory, at least, passed Algebra 2) can't pass 7th grade math? Do you want a math teacher who can't string coherent sentences together, or who can't spell? Do you want these same people teaching elementary students?

If you truly value children and their education, you must come to the conclusion that my suggestion above isn't draconian at all. In fact, it should be a bare minimum.

Then you must marvel at the greed and cynicism that inspires a CBEST-prep workshop put on by the teachers union.


Neko said...

You might want to eliminate one of your "tests" in the following sentence: "I know this sounds harsh, but anyone with a bachelor's degree who can't pass that test test is an idiot."

Darren said...

Done--thank you.

Polski3 said...

Back when it (CBEST) began, I was among the first required to take it. Back THEN, if you missed one part, you failed the test. Period. You had to retake the entire test over. ( Yes, I passed all sections the first time, as well as Arizona's crude teacher credentialing test.....).

Do lawyers, engineers, physicians and other professionals get multiple "do-overs" on their tests for professional licenses ?

Anonymous said...

"Do lawyers, engineers, physicians and other professionals get multiple 'do-overs' on their tests for professional licenses ?"

Accountants and lawyers do. But they aren't being tested for 7th grade skills ...

-Mark Roulo

adam smith said...

Do lawyers, engineers, physicians and other professionals get multiple "do-overs" on their tests for professional licenses ?

Well... yes. Admittedly, theirs are harder. But they do get multiple chances.

Keep in mind that the bar for teachers will never be set very high. There are simply too many school-age children who need to be warehoused six hours/day. If you cut the supply of qualified teachers, you'd have to pay them more.

That's not gonna happen.

Donalbain said...

We have a similar system in the UK. You have to do three tests: Literacy, Maths and ICT. You do them on computers at a specific site. The tests take about 30 minutes to do, and are really rather simple (imho). But they (particularly the maths one) test stuff that certainly wasnt taught to me when I was at school. Seriously, until I tried the test for the first time, I had never SEEN a box and whisker diagram, but they made up a good deal of the test.. The literacy one is basic grammar, spelling and comprehension. The ICT one is just a joke where you have to read a website and write an email.

But, the thing is, you can do the tests as many times as it takes to pass.. a friend of mine took 15 goes to pass the maths one! What is REALLY annoying is that in the literacy test, you get extra time if English isn't your first language. What is the bloody point of that? Either your English is good enough or it isn't.

KauaiMark said...

" a any 4yr degree, and the second is passing the dreaded California Basic Educational Skills Test, or CBEST"

These are the basic req's for substitutes as well.

The crazy thing about passing the CBEST is that it's FOREVER. It never expires.

I took and passed my CBEST in 1992 during an industry "down turn" but didn't use it until 10yrs later (the next big down turn)in 2003.

I didn't have to re-take it!

I could have gone brain dead or senile over that interval.

Mike Antonucci said...

Hey Darren:

I wrote this, related to the CBEST, back in August 2000:

"New York Times reporter Abby Goodnough took New York State’s main certification exam for teachers. In her August 23 story, Goodnough explained that she had not taken a standardized test in 14 years and had virtually no preparation. She said she failed precalculus in high school and took no science after 10th-grade chemistry. Nevertheless, she scored 284 out of a possible 300 (220 is passing). She got a perfect score in math and science and she was 'mortified to report that my worst score -- a 260 -- was on the essay.' Of the 4,314 other people who took the test that day, 59 percent failed.

"Goodnough’s experience was similar to my own. In 1996, I took the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), the state’s 'teacher entrance exam,' in preparation for a story about a lawsuit filed by minority groups against the test. The reading, math and writing tests require a passing score of 41 each, for a total of 123. If you fail one portion of the test, you need not retake the entire test. The state said 70 percent of test-takers pass on their first try, with 82 to 85 percent eventually passing.

"However, trial testimony revealed that the first-time passing rate broke down to 80 percent for whites, 60 percent for Asians, 47 percent for Hispanics and 37 percent for blacks. I scored 205 out of a possible 240, with my worst score -- a 63 -- in writing."

allen said...

> If you cut the supply of qualified teachers, you'd have to pay them more.

That's an assumption based on free-market dynamics. Trouble is, teacher pay isn't a market function.

The vast bulk of teachers are government employees and the pay of government employees has little to do with market demand. Also, the predominance of teacher's unions obscures market demand-related pay.

Rigorous teacher testing doesn't serve the interests of either the government entities that oversee education or the teacher's unions so it's no big surprise that such testing is effectively DOA or is throttled over time by a series of politically-motivated "improvements".

Ed schools also have nothing to gain from teacher testing since their function is as gate-keepers to help control the influx of job-seekers. Since teacher competence isn't one of the explicit responsibilities of an ed school teacher testing serves to illuminate how lousy they are at doing what they're not in business to actually do - produce competent teachers. Reality, however, is one thing and public perception another.

There's nothing to be gained, and some embarrassment to suffer by measuring and publicizing the abominable state of teacher education.

ms-teacher said...

Well then I must be an idiot. I had to re-take the math portion over, but passed it the second time. However, I received all A's in my math courses in college. Conversely, the MSAT I managed to pass all sections the first time through as well as the RICA.

Sometimes people just have a bad day, which may result in not doing so hot on a test. I don't think that one test should be the end all in determining if one is qualified to teach.

Phritz said...

I passed the CBEST 1st time, no problems. The math section was easy--too easy (and I am no Einstein, but a social-science/ history person). Barely Algebra I. It was all fairly simple: the SATs quite more challenging. I agree it should be upgraded. Maybe include some stats-like questions, or applied econ., etc.

Analytical reasoning should be included as well.
Many people in both humanities and engineering and science often possess good verbal skills and quantitative skills, but do not have great logic skills (as in determining what follows from a given set of premises (not just what the pie-graph shows).

It is quite amazing that so many wannabe-teachers cannot pass it: I have read that like over 1/3 fail it. They should be required to forfeit their degree, or perhaps included in the district custodial pool.

David G. said...

I know this post is old but I wanted to chime in for anyone else who searches the internet and finds this (as it came up #1 on Google).

The idea that if one doesn't pass this test that they are 'stupid' is quite stupid itself (reductionist, flippant with facts, dismissive, and false). I studied for many hours and did well at home in practice testing for the CBEST. Yet, I haven't done any of that kind of math for years and the test through quite a few curve balls my way. Thus, I didn't pass. Are you going to go back to middle school rants and start name calling toward me now? Do you claim to be a perfect human being?

If you're the type of person that doesn't care about circumstances (such as that I'm someone who suffers from extreme test anxiety, and depression on and off, and have for many years) or if you are someone who is simple minded and has no care for whether or not his/her beliefs are actually true, then by all means listen to the simpleton hogwash about "pass the first time or you're worthless".

Do you realize how angry this makes people? Your posts make it sound as if you know every single person's circumstances, as if your way is the best way, such that anyone who doesn't measure up to YOUR idealistic WAY should stick a gun down their throat (and that feeling you are certainly encouraging with such reductionist rants).

I have my BA in Philosophy and graduated with nearly a 4.0 GPA. I love critical thinking and science, and have been a successful teacher (privately) for over 17 years. Yet, somehow you want to discount all of that and hold me in YOUR absolutist mindset of judgment b/c you clearly don't care to think deeper than "you're stupid"? Just out of curiosity, do you profess to be a Christian or follower of Jesus (as most professing Conservatives are)? If so, you should be ashamed of yourself and you should be asking WWJD, and repenting.

In my case, taking the CBEST was difficult, especially since there was not enough time to finish (I felt extremely rushed), and I had not done anything like that in years. This problem did not occur when I took the practice tests at home(of which, again, I did fine). So, maybe next time you want to pre-judge people you should stop and actually check your motives, consider the entirety of circumstances, and be a little bit more considerate of others. It would get you a lot further toward your cause.

Darren said...

David G, you are concerned that I might call you names, then you jump right into the name-calling. Taking a cue from you, I'll assume you're a liberal and then go to the more important point:

If you study for a test of (at most) 8th grade math and don't pass it, then want to offer as excuses that you have test anxiety and depression, might it be *reasonable* to ask if you should be teaching students at all?

Anonymous said...

David, thank you for the comment you posted. I am glad you wrote what you did. You are an encouragement and a blessing. Glad to see a fellow brother in Christ encouraging others instead of calling people stupid.

Anonymous said...

Darren, your horrible stance towards prospective educators is disturbing especially if you are a teacher. I would be more disturbed to have a teacher with your negative attitude than to have a teacher who has to take the cbest several times. At least that teacher shows passion and perseverance. While your stance is "if you can't pass your an idiot." Wow. No teacher should have that mentality. That is the real problem with teachers these days, believing that one is hopeless if they don't get it right the first time.

Darren said...

Again, we're talking about *college graduates* who can't pass a test of 8th grade math and at most 10th grade English--presumably after studying for this test. You can praise their "grit" all you want, I'll still question why you would want that person teaching your kid.

Anonymous said...

You had me until you made racist rants about christains and conservatives.

Anonymous said...

Ughhhhhh Darren, shut uuuup... I hope to god you're not a teacher because you're going to fuck up some kids life with that mentality. Real talk.... I hate that your annoying little rant got under my skin, so I wish you love and hope one day you'll become a better person :) PACE AMORE

Darren said...

Coming up on year 20 of teaching.

Anonymous said...

I recently found out that I did not pass the second writing portion of the CBEST. I briefly reviewed for the math and reading portions just to make sure that I knew what they would be expecting, but I didn't even think about the writing section because this has always been my strong suit. I did not try harder on the first essay or add more detail. They were both very equally written however I managed to fail to pass just one of them. To me this seems like someone having a bad day decided to mark down my grade for something stupid. As far as I'm concerned it is a waste of my time and money to have to go and retake part of this test when I know that i am a perfectly capable writer. Does this undermine my abilities as a teacher in any way? Definitely not!

Josh said...

Thanks, Darren. There's a lot of liberal-style handholding being expected by these commenters. I would endorse your argument being taken a step further to "one shot, and that's it" for all CBEST sections in one sitting. I took the CBEST while I was a freshman in college (!!!) and was so sick with the flu I could hardly see, and I thought it was maybe the easiest test I had ever taken. I'm now working as a substitute teacher, and I frequently encounter instructional assistants who tell me they are working toward becoming teachers, but they just can't pass that gosh-darned CBEST. It makes my teeth itch. I smile and parrot the party line about perseverance, yadda yadda (being in a very liberal school district I must), but privately I want to tell them that not only are they unfit to teach - they are unfit to be paraeducators as well.

Darren said...

Thanks, Josh. My wording is a bit harsh, I admit, but it amazes me that people think it's beyond the pale for potential teachers--college graduates, all!--to be expected to meet 7th grade academic standards.

Anonymous said...

I respect everyone's opinion. I am a USC grad and a practicing dental hygienist for the past 16 years. My focus since Jr. College were the sciences. We don't train on essay writing or English comprehension. I studied Latin to become profient with medical and scientific terms. I am a single mother with a one and a half year old son. I'm trying to study, but I am lucky if I get an hour every other day. I was looking for more encouragement, and I found this. I passed national exams and clinical competency in California and in Hawaii. I want to become a teacher because that was my dream as a child. When so much time passes by, it's not easy recollecting such tedious information. No calcucalculators? In 2017? I think teacher's play a bigger role than essay writing and math teaching. Yes, they are educators, but I know that everyone of them who inspired me to become who I want to become didn't do it through explanation of what existed on a book. It was the passion, the positivity and the encouragement they install in a student. I am glad there are other chances to take it because I want to pass it. Specially the essay part. Cheers to all you teacher's. You all have a gift to share with the younger generation in search of their dreams.

CyberChalky said...

Your post and your comments in response to those decrying your concerns are a balm to the soul.

Most teachers have worked with colleagues whose incompetence can only be regarded with bemusement. English teachers who can't spell, Mathematics teachers who can't solve simple percentage calculations, Science teachers who proclaim with confidence pseudo-scientific trash, the tragi-comedy of errors goes on without end.

Some form of regular testing to hold teachers to a standard is not only rational, it is imperative. In Victoria, teacher candidates are required to sit a test that is at Year 9 standard, but that standard is not particularly challenging. Nonetheless, many prospective teachers complain that they are being judged on content they don't have to teach. ()

Darren said...

If I were to rewrite this post, I wouldn't use the term idiot. That's a harsher term than is deserved. Something akin to "unqualified" would be more in line with what I was thinking.

But yes, if you're a 4th grade teacher (and a college graduate), you certainly *should* be able to figure out what x is in the equation 2x-5=20. You should also know how to write an essay, even though they probably don't do much of that in 4th grade, either--and your spelling, punctuation, and grammar should be above 4th grade level. Complaining that such a standard is too high does not speak well of you.

Anonymous said...

The state of public education...concerned parent.