How To Pass An Education Test

In my neck of the woods, after their first three years of work teachers are required to take the Praxis exam to renew their certification.  I remember when I took it, I breezed through the content section, but was left frustrated and puzzled by the “pedagogy” section.  I knew what the answers were supposed to be, I was just very unhappy about it.

The questions were all loaded left-wing ideology questions, things like, “Why is it a good idea to always mainstream a severely emotionally disturbed student in a general classroom?” or, “List three ways you can alter your curriculum to be sensitive to the needs of disenfranchised minorities?”  The glib assumptions implicit in the philosophy behind the whole test were outrageous. 

I’m taking a couple of rounds of classes now for a step increase on the pay scale (like that’s actually going to happen…*sigh*), and in the little quiz questions I’m required to pass in order to finish each class, I’m seeing the same kind of philosophy.  It’s so prevalent and so predictable, I’m pretty sure I could answer them without even having reviewed the course content first. 

With that in mind, here’s some advice for my colleagues in similar situations, and for you poor education majors out there in undergrad land, for passing tests in education courses:

  • True/false questions that query the value of “diversity,” “differentiation,” or “inclusion” are always true.
  • If “multiple intelligences” is an option on a multiple choice question, pick it.  It’s the answer they want to see.
  • Any option on a multiple choice question that sounds reasonable, rational, or logial because it worked for our grandparents’ generation, will always be wrong. 
  • By contrast, any option that smacks of recent trends in experimental political correctness will always be right. 
  • If given an essay question, here’s an all-purpose answer: “I would make sure that every student thrives in an environment of accepting self-awareness that helps them maximize their individual potential by respecting their unqiue learning modalities.” 
  • Never write an answer that suggests you will lecture, make students memorize something, or that you will quiz them without notice.  This will get you in trouble. 
  • If none of the above helps on a particular question, just choose the option that sounds the most “fun” for students.  That’s the one they want. 

More On (Moron?) Staff Development Days

An excerpt from an email I sent to some school district administrators earlier today:


Perhaps the best idea I have for tightening the belt around here is to drastically streamline our staff development days. 


In a ninth season episode of The Simpsons entitled, “Lost Our Lisa,” the children feel sorry for their teachers, because the kids get to have fun on a day off while the teachers have to be “cooped up at school” on a staff development day.  The scene then cuts to a close-up of the principal mumbling to a bored-looking teacher, “Well, here we go again,” after which the camera pulls back to reveal the staff of the school on a roller coaster at an amusement park.  The joke is on the writers, though: their irony turns out to be quite realistic.


From the presentation by a company selling “edutainment” software that we neither need nor could afford, to the breakout sessions with no leader or coherent goal, to the condescending silliness at the start and end of the day, Tuesday’s staff development was a laughingstock failure.  I don’t say this to indict any certain individuals responsible for its planning, but when we face budget shortfalls and a lack of student achievement, it’s almost criminal to continue having these inservice days with the philosophy that they’re for “entertainment” and “team building.” 


In the interest of the quality of the education that we provide, I need to suggest that we radically alter staff development days in the district.  Shouldn’t staff development days be devoted to reviewing effective teaching strategies and curricula, and letting departments communicate with each other about immediate concerns specific to their campus and department?  Not to mention, letting teachers have some extra planning time?  What else could a staff development day legitimately be for? 


Budget cuts have to be made, and isn’t it reasonable to start with the catered lunches, silly technology-heavy presentations, pointless professional guest speakers, and trophies that cluttered up this most recent staff day? 




It’s Not The Money, Stupid…

The Clark County School District is facing a budget crisis; after having cut $130 million from its budget for this year, we now find ourselves having to cut even more for next year.  Some details are here

Schools are having emergency meetings with parents in the community to discuss ideas for cuts, and my school had such a meeting among its staff last week, as I’m sure many other schools have.  Everybody’s worried about salaries, perks, and even job security itself.

Let’s set a few things straight:

First, there is plenty of money out there for what we need.  There always has been and always will be.  It’s not a matter of needing more money, it’s a matter of better investing what we have.  It does not cost hundreds of millions of dollars to provide textbooks and necessary supplies.  Besides (the curmudgeon hastened to add), there is absolutely no relationship between education spending and academic achievement

But what about technology?  Doesn’t that cost a lot?  Yes, but that might as well be where we make some cuts, too, since…wait for it…students with greater access to computers statistically do worse academically than others

All this brouhaha reminds me of a letter that I had in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on July 11, 2007:


Here’s a shocking thought from a teacher: Raising our salaries won’t improve anything.

Continue reading