Saturday, September 12, 2009

Takin' the Praxis II

This morning, bright and early at 7:30, I took the Praxis II Mathematics Content exam, accepted for secondary math certification in many states, including Colorado. I took it at East High School, a grand old school (built in the 20's) full of marble and hardwood, high-ceilinged, yet still with that sort of dingy quality of any urban high school. It sits just past the entrance to City Park - it is the city-hall-type building you see here:

The two pillars in the foreground are across the street from the high school. Grand, no?

While other Praxis takers (and some kids waiting to take the ACT) waited in the lobby for things to begin, I wandered the halls a bit. The classrooms all have enormously high ceilings and are more spacious than our classrooms at Metro, but also dirtier and more disheveled. (The dishevelment isn't surprising; a high school teacher's classroom is also their office.)

The test took two hours, and leaving early was forbidden. (You could go to the bathroom or whatever, but otherwise had to stay the entire two hours.) The test I took was 50 questions long (some of the other people had 120-question exams, in other subjects) and basically covered material from algebra, Calc I (possibly II), linear algebra, high school geometry, and prob/stats, with a slight sprinkling of other topics.

Like most tests by ETS, some of the questions can be solved either by brute force or in some simpler way. I probably brute forced most of them.

Although the topics I listed are broad, the questions about them were not deep. They were basically questions that you could answer if you remember the basic ideas about calculus, linear algebra, and so on. For instance, I did not have to actually differentiate or integrate anything, but I did have to do things like recognize when a graph showed the first derivative of another graph, or understand the nature of of integration as "area under the curve."

I got through the 50 questions and was able to review about 13 of them before the time was up. I did find some errors in my review, which is (a) good, because I fixed them, but also (b) bad, because it means there were probably errors throughout.

At any rate, I almost certainly passed, and nobody cares about the specifics of your scores in this area. My certainty about passing isn't based just on the fact that in general the test was extremely doable, but also on the idea that, if they wanted a better performance than I gave, there would be extremely few new high school math teachers.

So that's that.


Sally said...

Is passing the Praxis II necessary for secondary math certification or an alternative to being certified through having a degree in math education and whatever certification goes along with that?

Not that I doubt that you passed the exam, or that it was easy (I've looked at the practice questions on the website) but wondered whether all (or even most) math teachers actually are required to pass this test.

When will you know your score?

Tam said...

Passing the appropriate Praxis II or Place (Colorado-specific) test is necessary for teacher certification in Colorado, regardless of the path you take to it, unless you are a certified teacher in another state with at least three years of experience. Secondary math ed students typically take it before the semester in which they student teach.

Sally said...

Interesting. My dad said that in OK you have to pass certification exams for each subject you teach. (My dad was certified in something like 23 subjects, including random stuff like journalism, so I guess the tests can't be that hard.) In TX, apparently once you are certified to teach any subject, you are allowed to teach any other subject (e.g. a person certified in history can be switched to teach math without passing any exam in math) - at least that's my understanding.

Tam said...

To get my initial certification in math, I need at least 30 hours of credits in "all areas of mathematics" and to pass either the exam I took Saturday or the Place exam for secondary math. That's not enough all by itself, but it gets me enrolled in alternative certification (if a principle will hire me, etc.)

My (very vague) understanding is that if I then wanted to be certified to teach science, I would not need the 30 hours in all branches of science, but would only need to pass more exams. So I imagine I could get certified to teach, say, English pretty easily.

But I could be wrong about how that works.