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Topic: taking the CBEST
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Ted Alper

Posts: 118
Registered: 12/6/04
taking the CBEST
Posted: Jul 17, 2000 4:36 PM
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Well, along the same test-taking lines as other stories reported here,
I had to take the CBEST last month (this is an exam required for
teaching credentials in California; I am applying for an emergency
teaching credential -- but that's another story.)

Unlike the reporter taking the MCAS, I did not have the luxury of
omitting the open-ended, essay portions of the exam. I was surprised
at how hard I found it to put my thoughts into words with pencil and
paper -- for more than 15 years, I have always composed in EMACS or
WORD, where one can edit and cut-and-paste as one writes.


It was amazing how poorly worded many questions were. I particularled
loathed the math questions in which they asked which piece of
information would be NECESSARY to solve a problem -- they really meant
which would be SUFFICIENT to solve the problem. (That is, if you know
pencils cost 50 cents each and pens cost 75 cents, and you know that
Hannah spent 30% of her money on pens, the rest on pencils, would you
say it is NECESSARY to know how much money she spent in all in order
to find out how many pens she bought? I sure wouldn't, lots of other
info would suffice.)

And they had a problem in which there were containers holding apple
juice, lemonade, and orange juice. the one labelled "apple juice" had
orange juice in it... then you were asked various questions about the
others... but it implicitly assumed those containers were labelled
"orange juice" and "lemonade" even though this was nowhere stated.


The reading questions were no better (though I found afterwards that I
couldn't remember them clearly enough to write down my complaints -- I
do recall there was a question concerning a reading passage about a
laundromat/exercise club for which no answer was literally correct).

The whole experience reminded me a lot of what I didn't like
about high school: I was sitting in a too small seat, trying to keep the
exam form and the bubble-sheet and my pencils and my picture ID on the
tiny writing surface, in a room decorated with ugly student collages
and ancient high school psychology textbooks.

I did pass with generally high marks (my essays were considered
just acceptable, but my reading section got top marks. And I lost at
least one point somewhere on the math! I wish they gave us our answer
sheet back, I'd love to see what I missed.) A passing grade is 50%,
more or less (the scoring system is a bit cryptic).

I don't know what I think about this test. I certainly think that
anyone who can't score 50% on it probably should not be a teacher.
(though there could be exceptions -- should a low score on the math
component invalidate an art teacher? Might a non-English speaker do
poorly on the reading comprehension within the time limit, yet still
make a good math teacher? (some of my best teachers in college had
somewhat limited English skills) And I still don't know how my essays
were graded. Still, 50% on this fairly basic test is pretty low -- I
would be more concerned that people who barely pass this test are
considered to have met the standard for certification. (Admittedly,
there are additional things one must do for certiciation). I don't
know what the score distribution is, either among the set of all
test-takers or the set of all teachers. I do know that several people
in the room I was in were taking the test after having failed one or
more portion previously.

Ted Alper
alper@turing.stanford.edu













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