Could you pass this test for NC teach­ers?

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Insight - BY ANN DOSS HELMS [email protected]­lot­teob­ Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @an­n­dosshelms

Af­ter an ar­ti­cle about North Carolina teach­ers fail­ing math test re­quired for li­cen­sure got na­tional cir­cu­la­tion, math-minded read­ers wanted to see for them­selves how hard the test is.

“Would have been more in­for­ma­tive if sam­ple ques­tions were in­cluded to see ex­actly what type of ques­tion seems to be prob­lem­atic. I’d love to know,” a reader wrote.

The bad news: The exam that has tripped up al­most 2,400 be­gin­ning el­e­men­tary school teach­ers re­lies heav­ily on charts, graphs and math­e­mat­i­cal no­ta­tions, which makes it hard to re­pro­duce in a story.

The good: You can go to and click “pre­pare” to view sam­ple ques­tions or even try your hand at a full 2.5-hour, 46-ques­tion prac­tice test (the math test, which has proven to be the big­gest stum­bling block, is un­der “gen­eral cur­ricu­lum”).

State ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials adopted the li­cen­sure ex­ams cre­ated by Pear­son, a com­pany that pro­vides test­ing and other ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­rial, in 2014. Pass rates on the math por­tion plunged, from around 85 per­cent on the pre­vi­ous Praxis exam (which comes from the non­profit Ed­u­ca­tional Test­ing Ser­vice) to as low as 54.5 per­cent in 2016-17.

North Carolina’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, which has al­ready given teach­ers an ex­tra year to pass, heard a re­port on the li­cen­sure exam last week. The Ob­server’s ar­ti­cle, which noted sim­i­lar prob­lems in other states, was picked up by the on­line Drudge Re­port and spurred a re­port from Newsweek.

El­e­men­tary school class­room teach­ers and K-12 spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers must pass ex­ams in math, read­ing and gen­eral knowl­edge within the first two years af­ter grad­u­a­tion to earn a North Carolina teach­ing li­cense. They pay $278 to take the whole bat­tery, and $94 each time they have to re­take the math por­tion.

The first 45 mul­ti­ple­choice ques­tions cover al­ge­bra, ge­om­e­try, prob­a­bil­ity and sta­tis­tics — mostly ma­te­rial that’s taught in eighth grade and high school, said UNC Char­lotte School of Ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sor Drew Polly. He teaches prospec­tive el­e­men­tary school teach­ers how to teach math. He was among a group of ex­perts who re­viewed North Carolina’s math exam this spring.

“When you have a col­lege de­gree it’s not too un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect them to know high school math,” Polly said. But he and the other ex­perts con­cluded that a more mean­ing­ful exam would ask teach­ers to demon­strate that they know how to look at stu­dent work and use strate­gies to help those stu­dents suc­ceed. On the cur­rent exam, only the fi­nal open-an­swer ques­tion does that, Polly said.

That ques­tion gives a stu­dent’s re­sponse to a ge­om­e­try prob­lem and asks the teacher to cor­rect any er­rors, ex­plain the prob­lem with the stu­dent’s ap­proach and out­line an al­ter­na­tive ap­proach that might help the stu­dents grasp the con­cepts.

An­swer to ques­tion: C


Ques­tion from Pear­son’s prac­tice test for N.C. teacher li­cen­sure. The cor­rect an­swer is at the end of this story.

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