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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 20 2012

Praxis Follow-Up and Realization

So I promised I would post a follow-up to my Praxis post.  I checked my Score Report and it turns out I was correct, unfortunately.  I passed within the top 15% of all test-takers with a raw score of a 39 out of 50 on the exam.  I needed a scaled-score of 141 to teach in Maryland and actually received a 169.  Bottom line: for this particular exam, people could have received as low as a raw score of 30 out of 50 and still received a passing score on this teacher certification exam.  That is SCARY to me!

But then I thought about it further and related it to the discrepancies that America is facing in terms of Math and Science.  Did my high school teachers in a upper-middle class school system have a grasp on mathematical concepts?  Ehh, debatable.  Now for the question that matters: Did they impart the necessary knowledge to me?  Answer: I think so?

So who knows what the Praxis actually measures and if it matters that people pass it with flying colors.  I think all that matters is that you pass, because it demonstrates the minimum amount of knowledge required.  Despite the fact that the majority of public school teachers in America may not have the strongest grasp of mathematics, they function as instructors, not teachers.  In other words, they could read up on the theories and concepts behind triangles the night before their lesson and instruct accordingly the next day.  That is how many teachers operate and THAT is why people are behind.  It’s a marginal process that does not allow for a more than average grasp of understanding.  The only way for an instructor to become a teacher is to have a near complete understanding or grasp on the concept they are teaching.  That’s just common sense, though.  Too bad it is a tool many are lacking.

So I feel as though it is necessary to take it upon myself to continue learning the concepts I will be teaching to a depth that will allow me to go above and beyond in the classroom.  It may work for many teachers in the education system currently, but I do not feel as though I will be giving the best to my students if I myself do not understand the concepts beyond a certain level.

3 Responses

  1. Ms. D

    There is a tutor at my school who finished his undergrad in education. He has taken the Praxis 7 times and only just passed on his 7th time taking the test. It is absurd to me that somebody who studied education for 4 years in college was still not prepared to become a teacher. It makes me fearful for his future students.

  2. Philip Kovacs

    “That is how many teachers operate and THAT is why people are behind.”

    As someone with a stellar math score I am guessing that you have, uhm, proof, that this is the case. Lemme know when you can provide it.

    Until then, you might look into who is behind, on what, where, before making blanket statements. Note, for example, what happens to international test score data when scores are disaggregated according to class.

    And riddle me this…if someone is really strong at math, why would they enter a career in teaching when there is so much more money and respect elsewhere? You can wait four years to answer that one if you’d like…

  3. thebigpr


    Thanks for the comment.

    I think you have raised many issues that I managed to address slightly in my post. I agree with your point of view in that many people who have studied math at the undergraduate and/or graduate level will not necessarily be on the education track. However, that does not mean that the people who DO teach math at the primary or secondary level can have less than average understanding of mathematical concepts and content knowledge. I am not saying that math teachers across the country must be experts and geniuses in their field nor are they needed to have studied math deeply. All I am saying is that there should be a higher bar set for performance on these teacher certification exams.

    Maybe I should have worded it as “that is why people MAY be behind”.

    Obviously, our country does not have the resources to provide expert math teachers in every school district across the country. BUT I do feel like that is a goal we should strive for: putting math teachers with a strong grasp of the subject being taught in their classrooms.

    And again, I do not claim to be an expert on the American educational system nor am I jaded yet about it even before starting to teach. I do believe, though, that getting a raw score of a 39/50 on my Praxis and finishing in the top 15% of the test-takers with that score goes to show the overall ‘content knowledge’ of teachers across the country. That’s all I am saying! =)

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