The Credential Game
Today I will take the Colorado PLACE (Program for Licensing Assessments for Colorado Educators®) Elementary Education test. I don’t have enough modesty to say that I’m anxious about taking the test or how I’ll do on it. If I somehow botch this attempt, I’ll be eating some crow.
My experience in education began in Colorado. I started taking classes while I worked for IBM at a downtown Denver client. I had it so good that I could leave in the middle of the day to take classes, and do about anything that I wanted as long as I also did my job. I fell in love with history and learning in general, and decided that I wanted to teach social studies. I made an appointment with the University of Colorado Denver education department to see what classes and tests that I’d need to take to obtain a teaching certificate. I came in with an attitude pretty much in line with current day reformers, and the bureaucracy of the school and Colorado Department of Education only fueled my disdain for ‘the system.’
The university counselor advised me against taking anything but the Basic Skills test, because I wouldn’t have taken the classes and possessed the knowledge necessary to pass any others. That was enough to have me sign up for the Basic Skills, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Professional Knowledge: Young Adult tests (they have since discontinued the latter two). To prepare, I read the sample questions that came with the registration packet and figured out the basic structure of the tortured thinking that they were looking for as answers. I easily passed all three tests.
Before I finished the process in Colorado, I moved to Missoula, Montana and finished certification there. This time I had to take a Praxis Basic Skills test, because the other ridiculously easy tests weren’t enough to prove that I could also pass a new one. Apparently the thing that I hadn’t proven yet was that I was willing to pay for another test. I paid; I passed. Because of coursework, I left Montana with inititial teacher certification and a secondary social studies endorsement.
I escaped the final semester of my teacher preparation course because the University of Montana allowed me to finish remotely after I took a mid-year job teaching at a small private school in Chicago. I realized that I enjoyed teaching math more than social studies because although I have talent for math, I can take it or leave it. I don’t get offended or put off when a student hates math the same way that it annoyed me if a student refused to work in social studies. Luckily, I had enough math credits that I qualified for an Illinois Mathematics endorsement if I passed the test. The test was something that a bright 9th grader would have no problem passing. Another endorsement down. On a roll, I also took Business and Marketing tests and added those to my list of endorsements. Illinois also breaks out social studies into several topics, as it should, so I took a couple of additional history tests.
I had endorsements in all of the Social Studies topics, Business and Marketing, and Mathematics. I stopped taking tests at this point because I was tired of paying to take ridiculously easy tests and classes, and I didn’t really want to teach any other subjects. In the Philippines, all that mattered was the basic teaching certificate, so for the time being, my credentialing experience was over. When we decided to repatriate to the US, I had to go through the process in Colorado again. Luckily, many states have reciprocity agreements, so all of my credentials came with me. In Colorado, once you have your initial teaching certificate, you can add additional endorsements by either passing additional tests or taking additional courses. My MA in Information and Learning Technology takes care of the course work for an endorsement in Technology Education.
Because I’m in an elementary school, and people seem impressed by endorsements, I’m taking the test today to add an Elementary Education endorsement to my bag of tricks. After this semester, I’ll also qualify for a STEM endorsement. Since STEM is way beyond all the rage, this will be a nice bauble to add to my collection. But, why stop there? My ultimate goal at this point is to get back overseas to a top tier international school or Department of Defense School. I plan to stay in technology, but having a lot of endorsements will allow me to be fit into the budget under almost any position, even though I have no intention of teaching most of these subjects. I’m planning to take English and Science this January. While I may qualify as some kind of minor league renaissance man, I have no illusions about what all of my endorsements mean–that I had enough money to pay for them combined with enough intelligence to game them.
The tests prove nothing, therefore endorsements are pretty much worthless any place other than the world of education. Reformers have their eyes and teeth set on the teacher licensure process, and if their track record is any indication, they won’t make the process any more valuable, they’ll only add their own personal brand of bullshit to the equation. Look for politicians to jump all over this. More ways to divert money from a not great system and create multiple shitty systems in its place. Colorado has its share of ed posers who will take the lead, just like they did with the Colorado teacher accountability law.
I just double checked, and the Colorado Place tests are Pearson products. If anyone truly wanted to improve public education, this post offers up four places to start before turning on teachers, who are only pawns in this facade. Arne Duncan (as a tool for Barrack Obama and the corporatist wing of the Democratic party), Pearson, state legislators across the country who have used education for political gain, and finally a joke of a credentialing system that only manages to keep out people who can’t pass a test geared towards 10th graders and deter people on the opposite end of the spectrum because they don’t have the time, money, or patience to deal with the clowns running this circus.
Wish me luck on the big test today!