The NYSTCE: One View

I’ve been working with students who are studying for the NYS teacher certification exams for 5 years. When I began, the older exams (LAST, ATS-W, and many Content Specialty Exams (CST)) were on their way out, soon to be replaced by the ALST, the EAS, and those many new CST exams.

The implementation of the revisions to the exams has been fraught. Exams have been launched and then safety-nets put into place, deadlines set and moved and moved again. The ALST, which proved itself to be an unreliable instrument, was pulled, and this reasonable response to a bad test was greeted by an outcry – from those who should have done their homework and therefore known better – that NYS was watering down its standards. To the contrary, the only standard of NYS that should have been in question was the standard they hold the tests to. The ALST was a sham, in my informed opinion, and it was finally shown the door. But not before many, many students in NYS spent a collective thousands of dollars on it. That draining of our students’ resources is what should have launched an outcry.

That’s (part of) the messy backstory. The EAS is being revised, which, in my opinion is unfortunate, since it was the best of the tests – and I define “best” as the one for which prepping for it was actually prepping for the profession, not just the exam. But, although it required students to read texts in multiple genre, analyze information for those texts (called ‘exhibits’), and compose an argument with a stance, reasons, and evidence, it was deemed as not testing literacy and is being reworked. Oh well.

Through this all, students who hope to go on to be certified as K-12 teachers in NYS need to do their course work, complete their field work, and build their understanding, compassion and empathy for the students they will guide in their classrooms. Added to this full plate is the need to prepare for the exams. I want students to work hard to be better readers, writers, and teachers. I don’t want them to needlessly suffer over the NYSCE, and I do want them to practice a model of test-prep that helps them see that they can use a test for their own purposes: I want them to see that they can teach though the test rather than to the test.

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