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[Susan notes: This Tennessee teacher asks excellent questions of Florida reporters who seem to have a whole lot of faith in the Florida teacher test.]

Submitted to Herald Tribune but not published
12/12/2004

To the editor


Have you ever looked at the actual teaching certification exams to see what is considered "basic skills taught in school" or "subject area knowledge", or "best teaching practices?"? I have. I have taken and passed the PRAXIS series and the ExCET exams. I am certified for K-8 mathematics, K-12 vocal/general music (TN), Elementary/middle music specialist (TX) and K-8 elementary self-contained.



Basic skills on the elementary comphrehensive included identifying buildings by architectural style. Somehow, I don't think that's basic skills for elementary students, or even required for most college majors.



The music exam, singular, included content for both vocal and instrumental music, Kindergarten through 12th grade. This ignores that the content taught to instrumenal and vocal majors is very different, that instrumental majors cannot be certified for voice without additional coursework (Often several years worth) and that the course of study in university programs generally means that instrumental majors have no chance to even take vocal coursework and vice-versa without effectively double majoring. I don't believe that whether a high school band director can select vocal pieces from a list as appropriate for a high school choir has any bearing on his skills as a band director. Nor do I believe the choir director has much reason to know which pitches you teach first on a tenor trombone.



Methodology tests are trend of the week tests. Woe be it to the student who dares have an opinion against that of the day's gurus as to how something should be taught, because that road leads to failure. At the time I took my tests, the direct instruction now common in most schools would have been considered a sign of incompetence, because NO ONE taught reading that way. It also begs the question as to what subject methodology is being tested. Believe me, no question on the general methodology test addressed the situations which arise when you teach 600 students a week, as I do as a music teacher.



If Florida's universities aren't competent to judge who is competent in their subjects in teaching, and a test is, why is a college degree and certification from the university required to teach at all? Why not do teaching certification like the computer certification programs, where when you pass the test you're certified, even if your only experience and training is a weekend workshop on how to pass the test?



Donna Metler


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