Michigan’s future teachers flunking test of ‘basic’ content

Less than a third of aspiring teachers passed Michigan’s tough new certification test during the first year the exam was required, with universities and the state Michigan Department of Education pointing fingers at each other over the abysmal results.

Pass rates for the Professional Readiness Exam (PRE), which must be passed before aspiring teachers begin student teaching, vary from a high of 71 percent passing at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to 16 percent at Alma College, according to a report provided to Bridge by the state education department. The report includes tests taken between October 2013 when the new test was first introduced, and July 2014.

Fewer than one in four aspiring teachers passed the test at 12 of the 27 public and private Michigan colleges and universities for which scores were provided. Aside from U-M, Michigan Tech (55 percent) was the only other school with a passage rate above 50 percent. (The test is only required for those still studying to be teachers; current teachers do not have to take the test to remain in the classroom)

That’s a stunning difference from two years ago, when the pass rate under the old exam, called the Basic Skills test, was 82 percent statewide.

The new certification test is part of an effort to assure that only the most highly-qualified college students seeking a career in teaching are leading Michigan classrooms. The test now includes higher-level math and reading questions and a tougher writing subtest.

Compare the two tests and see if you can answer sample questions

Here is a sample of the old, less difficult certification questions

Here is a sample of the more rigorous math and reading questions in the new exam:

Calls for more rigorous teaching standards have intensified as Michigan students continue to fall further behind students in many other states, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes referred to as the Nation’s Report Card. While many factors play a role in Michigan’s education slide, one factor had been the state’s notoriously easy certification tests, where pass rates were similar to the pass rates for cosmetology.

MDE is revamping its battery of teacher certification tests (in addition to PRE, aspiring teachers also take content-specific tests for subjects ranging from elementary education to chemistry) so they better align with what is being taught in classrooms. Reporting by Bridge led to the department receiving additional funding to speed up the test-revamp process.

Rigorous? Or just confusing?

There’s a heated debate over whether the PRE is raising the bar on teacher candidates, or just confusing college students.

“We have a bad test,” said Nancy Brown, associate dean of the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University, where fewer than one-third of students passed the test. “We’re not going to know the best and brightest (future teachers) from this test because the test is broken.”

At Oakland, aspiring teachers typically are expected to pass the test before entering the teaching program.

“We had a bunch of people who were expecting to start the program,” said Robert Wiggins, chair of the Department of Teacher Development and Educational Studies at Oakland. “We gave them a petition of exemption (allowing the students to begin the teaching program). We said you will have to pass the test eventually; it’s very different from what we had in the past.”

Even with the university offering test prep programs, only 29 percent of the 226 aspiring teachers at Oakland passed the PRE last year.

“Students are stressed out and frustrated,” Wiggins said. “Most of the students who get to this point have a history of success in school. We’ve held workshops on each of the subjects (reading, math and writing) and students have taken (the exam) repeatedly. We have this public perception that this is a readiness exam that measures minimal standards, when in reality, it’s a very difficult test.”

High school content

The Michigan Department of Education acknowledges that some university teacher preparation programs are unhappy with the test. But the department says the problem lies with aspiring teachers, too many of whom don’t have the level of general academic knowledge needed to become successful teachers.

“This is high school content,” said Leah Breen, interim director of the Office of Professional Preparation Services at MDE. “It’s staggering to see the number of college students who want to enter the teaching profession who do not have (high school) content.”

The PRE doesn’t measure teaching skills – additional certification tests taken at the conclusion of a college teaching program in specific content areas are meant to do that. Instead, the PRE is intended to set a bar for general academic knowledge, Breen said.

“It’s intended to assure that a candidate entering a (teaching) program has the basic knowledge to learn the skills necessary to be an effective teacher,” Breen said. “We don’t want them to be relearning high school content in their teacher preparation program.”

The scores needed to pass the Professional Readiness Exam’s three sections are comparable to above-average high school ACT scores. The score needed to pass the math and reading sections of the PRE is equivalent to a score of 22 on the math section of the ACT, which is the 61st percentile of high school test-takers nationally; the writing section of the PRE is equivalent to a score of 24 on the ACT’s combined English and writing subsections, which is the 75th percentile nationally.

Michigan doesn’t have to worry about the PRE causing a teacher shortage anytime soon. Michigan graduates more teachers than the schools have openings, and the Department of Education now offers alternative methods of passing the PRE that are boosting the share of Michigan college students passing the first hurdle toward becoming a teacher. Students with equivalent ACT scores can skip the PRE; students who pass two PRE sections and come close to passing the third (within one standard measure of error) also can move on.

At Michigan State University, for example, 41 percent of aspiring teachers passed the PRE, but when alternative pass methods are included, 73 percent of students passed the hurdle. At Oakland, the pass rate increases from 29 percent to about 45 percent when alternative pass methods are included.

That’s still significantly less than the eight out of 10 who annually passed the old Basic Skills Test. That’s a good thing, Michigan Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in late 2013 when the first round of PRE results was announced.

“Just like we’d want the best and most effective doctor,” he said, “the same applies to teaching Michigan’s students.”

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Tue, 01/20/2015 - 9:57am
I would just like to question how much math does a high school English teacher need to know.?
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 9:59am
As the Director of the Learning Resources Center at MSU I work with a lot of students preparing for the PRE. It may be "high school content" but it is far from "basic." The mathematics section contains questions on statistics, for example. The "writing" section--which is really a grammar test--in its current iteration does not correspond well to the materials the Pearson subsidiary sells students in order to prepare. This section of the test was changed recently without informing either the students, or the Colleges. The essay portion of the test is structured so that students' training as writers actually works against them and does not reflect any real world writing situation. It's a poor test and as someone who has been a teacher for 40 years in classrooms from 7th grade to graduate school I can tell you in no way does it measure or "assure that a candidate entering a (teaching) program has the basic knowledge to learn the skills necessary to be an effective teacher." In fact, it is driving otherwise intelligent and talented teacher candidates away from the profession. The "alternative methods" that Pearson has come up with are merely examples of fiddling around the edges of the test to preserve their profit margins and avoid making serious and meaningful changes to the test. Thanks to companies like Pearson, their lobbyists and a feckless legislature the training of future teachers has become a commodity, like manufacturing toasters instead of an important contribution to the common good in a democratic society.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:19pm
Thank you for this comment. Absolutely right.
John S. Porter
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 12:28am
I agree completely. What a mess. Why not find a representative sample of existing teachers, from programs deemed "successful" and give them the exam. Let's see how real, in the field, teachers compare to the students taking the test. Can you guess whose scores would be better? I can't. It would be relatively easy to test the efficacy of this test in achieving it's stated purpose. You could get a sampling from "successful" school districts, and you could random test teachers across the State. Why not test the test?
Adam Manley
Fri, 01/29/2016 - 1:35pm
I did just that last year in a study of 21 highly effective teachers. Only 38% passed it and 75% of the participants disagree that the PRE is a measure of potential teaching effectiveness.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:25am
This is not the solution but something to consider. Pay teachers more money and you will get more people considering the profession. If you get more to choose from maybe you will get some better qualified to pass these tests. Raise the bar for those accepted into teaching as a profession. Just a thought. R.L.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:54am
I think teacher's pay should be more that that's just one solution to the issue. Students are not passing because they clearly have not been taught for what the test tests. That is the issues. There are plenty of great teachers out there who are and would be great in the classroom but can't pass the basic skills exam. Most people I know have the most difficulty passing the math portion. Testing overall needs to take place. I have it happens soon.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:56am
Hey R.L,. Given that Mich already has the (or amongst the) highest paid teachers in the country (verses cost of living in MI), is there or do you have any evidence that Michigan experiences better results in this area than lower paid states?
Matt G
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:34am
Are you talking average pay? Starting pay? Pay numbers averaged over time to address an aging population of teachers (who are paid more based on experience). Perhaps a teacher with 30 years experience should indeed be paid a lot. If your population of teachers is experienced/old, perhaps your total expenditure will be high? Teacher pay is somewhat irrelevant to student performance. Beyond paying enough to take money off the table as a daily worry there isn't any research evidence that shows more pay equals better performance in ANY field where people do creative work. Increasing pay beyond making people feel valued (relative to the amount of work they put in) and offsetting the cost of living, retirement, and reasonable vacations will do nothing but shift people around based on competition between pay scales. It will do nothing to increase performance. That said, workers need to be paid enough to live comfortably. Currently, many teachers start out not really making a respectable salary for what they have to put in to get their jobs. I have a friend with a Special Education Master's degree who makes less than ~$30k to start. What other professions deal with that? Few, I would wager. How are you supposed to pay back student loans in that situation? What really has been shown by research to affect student outcomes is POVERTY...and considering something like 1/4 of Michigan kids are living in poverty, perhaps there are forces beyond the control of schools to consider. Maybe teachers aren't solely to blame...maybe the standardized test scores don't account for differences in communities around the country.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:52am
These test are extremely difficult and do not reflect the preparedness of an aspiring teacher. I do believe aspiring teachers should have basic skills but specifically the math exam has questions on there that are extremely difficult and in my view won't test to see if I will be a great teacher. As a Social Science and English certified teacher in Michigan and now living in Illinois, I don't understand why I have to know advanced trigonometry and algebra when I won't be using or teaching those subjects. Students not being able to pass the exam clearly show that Michigan High Schools are not doing a good enough job at teaching students in the basic areas. I am living in Illinois and now have to take their basic skills exam. The most difficult part is the math section. I am not a mathematician, I am a social scientist. I can do the basic math needed for life: Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, fractions, and etc. But the content on both the Michigan test and the Illinois test are not fair for what I'm going to teach. I am a great teacher and this test does not show that. Testing overall needs to be done to ensure teachers like me are in the classroom education and education with excellence!
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:00am
Something to consider: Teachers must be college level knowledgeable of the subject(s) they wish to teach. I would expect a high school chemistry teach to be college level knowledgeable in chemistry. A French teacher should be college level knowledgeable in French. Same for math, English, or any other high school subject. Maybe all teachers should understand the fundamentals of teaching, and be required to specialize in some specific subject. The teacher's test should be 2 part, where part I is fundamentals of teaching, and part II is the subject that the teacher is qualified in. We do this in engineering on the Professional Engineer's exam where part I is the EIT exam covering a broad spectrum of engineering, and part II is an exam in a specific field of engineering (mechanical, civil, electrical, etc.). I don't see where it is important that a high school language teacher have college level understanding of physics as an example, but that teacher must be we'll qualified in the language they are teaching.
Matt G
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:36am
Hi Rich, That's already how it works in Michigan. Teacher candidates take the general math/reading exam as this article discusses and then also take a content exam for their chosen concentration.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 11:59am
I don't need my son's elementary teachers to understand much pure content. I don't need my older's son's h.s. English teacher to understand much math either. Heck, most politicians in Lansing couldn't pass it either and look how much influence and power they have.
Thomas Weiss
Sun, 02/15/2015 - 11:17am
Yes, but look how low our expectations are for the legislators.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:10pm
So much as changed within Michigan in regard to teaching. When pay steps are frozen for years at a time so that a teacher who has taught 3-4 years is making entry level wages, has less retirement down the road, is required to take additional courses, and when tenure/seniority doesn't really count much anymore, why would the top students in math, science, or other disciplines want to pursue a degree in teaching? Add in the elements of subjective evaluations that include performance scores of students who have no meaningful stake (no penalties or mandatory remediation for their effort or lack of) and more demands by the State, and anyone with a brain would steer clear of the profession these days. As a teacher who continued both his education and worked hard everyday to offer the most to his students and community, I understand and respect accountability. In my opinion, the people in charge of changing education are shortchanging students these days by too much testing, packing classrooms, beating up teachers, and under-funding education. These people in the "know" are analogous to a licensing board who evaluates doctors on the number of people in their practice who die, don't eat right, don't have an ideal BMI or develop cardiac disease or cancer. Teachers should have a good command of their major and be knowledgeable about many things. By the same token, we have too many professionals who don't know basic history, math, or science in government, industry,and other fields. Perhaps general testing should apply to everyone who receives a degree. On the other hand, it seems logical that if you are in college, a review of transcripts would show any glaring deficiencies. So let's ask an essential question, "Who is really benefiting from this test? My guess is the testing companies profit margin!
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 2:43pm
I have reviewed the study guides and I do not believe the test is too hard. I know someone who has taken (and easily passed) these exams. If a teacher isn't intelligent enough to pass these exams, please keep him/her out of the classroom. Education courses at some Michigan State universities are extremely easy. With a history of "easy A" grades, some teachers are shocked to find a test that trips them up. Sorry, but know your material or find another career path.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 6:12pm
Pamela, Since you feel the test is fair and easy, why don't you take it so you could qualify to practice teach. If you fail it you should select a needy college student with a massive student debt who didn't fail this test, will become a teacher and spend her/his life being attacked for being incompetent, being underpaid, having class sizes so large that they cannot walk between the student desks [my classes were that crowded every year I taught - 37], and pay off her/his student debt for them since otherwise they will be still paying on their student debt when they are 70 and retire. Please take this "easy test" and then tell the Bridge readers how you scored on this "easy test."
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 9:36am
I agree. The reading skills in the sample tests is very reasonable. And yes -- Michigan has decided (and I agree) that understanding algebra and statistics IS important for being effective citizens today. I'm glad that teachers are being expected to demonstrate these skills. I'm also sure the universities will adjust their preparation and the fail rate will be brought down.
Thu, 01/29/2015 - 6:20pm
How does the ability to do advanced algebra and use a graphing calculator help you explain addition and subtraction to a six year old? Am I an idiot because I find this test impossibly hard? I'm not a math whiz, my original field was history. I can discuss historical trends and whatnot, but algebra leaves me dizzy. To me, this is just more of the same BS that we have been putting our students through, now being applied to teacher candidates. People have different types of intelligence, and you can't make everyone proficient at everything, it's just not how our brains are built. Education is failing because of moronic legislative decisions, not the teachers.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:28pm
I took both the sample of "old, less difficult questions" and the sample of "more rigorous math and reading questions in the new exam" .. oddly enough, the reading selection and questions were EXACTLY the same between the two tests. Bridge .. was a wrong link provided or what's up with that??
Sue Smith
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 4:39pm
Well, it is up to the Universities, who are collecting a bunch of money from students, to make sure they are prepared. It seems like a moral obligation to society! Also, lots of people go into teaching that shouldn't. Most Universities--it is the bottom 5% of the students. Don't we want a little better for our kids? Also, teacher's sub, have to take on different roles, and need to have a basic knowledged needed to graduate high school, regardless of what they teach. So, even if you teach english, you should have to pass Alg. II.--state requirment.
Fri, 01/01/2016 - 7:46am
Where do you get that it is the bottom 5%? The students I know certainly don't fit that mold. Also, the practice test are easier than the real one according to mantgood students.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 5:56pm
The "reading" test is a fair test that requires a degree of critical thinking skills. However, the Radical Right's obsession with high stakes standardized tests for students, the results of which can be used to justify underpayment of professional teachers has resulted in teachers spending much of their time teaching rote memory fact reciting and dropping time they used to spend on critical thinking skills. I find the "math" sections unusually hard. Although some university professors think this type of math is what students in secondary school learn, it wasn't in my math classes in secondary school, where the practice questions used to teach mathematical concepts (which this test claims to be testing) were really a series of arithmetic questions repeating the same formulas that seemed more interested in discovering if I would make an arithmetical error. After teaching over 45 years, secondary school and community college combined, I will testify that I never needed, used, or taught any of the mathematical concepts this test is testing. I wonder how many of the lawyers serving in the Michigan Legislature could answer just two of the questions in the mathematical section! Shouldn't they have to take these tests to be qualified to serve in the Legislature before they are given the power to make laws, rules, and decisions that affect our lives so much?
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 8:26pm
I think a harder test is a good first step towards fixing the entire education system (which I'm deeply involved in, having taught elementary school in southeastern MI for 17 years). Ripley's Smartest Kids in the World (2012) makes it clear that Finland, the most sustainable Educational Super Power, mainly got there by raising the entrance standards for teachers in the 1990s. With that in place, the need for over-testing and other draconian oversights disappears. The US is average or below average in Math, Reading and Science among the 64 countries that take the PISA. US students (Illinois study) report not being challenged in the classroom. Foreign students find our schools laughably easy. We need a change. Our kids, who are going to compete with these students from these other countries that are so far ahead of them, need us to change. And heck yes English teachers need to know math, just as math, science and social studies teachers need to know how to write. Right? Real-world and cross-curricular connections and scenarios and prompts and questions are how we help kids connect and keep it real. And the real world is based entirely on... math, reading, writing, science, social studies and the arts.
Wayne O'Brien
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:06pm
Tom presents sound thoughts from a wise and informed perspective. Leaders in Finland (where 40+ percent of legislators and policymakers are women) realized more than 30 years ago that schools are not the common denominator.....teacher quality is. The McKinsey report makes it clear that the quality of a country's schools cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. For the common good, Michigan's choice (like Finalnd's) must be to seek only the best and brightest candidates to fill all educator positions. At every level (including university instruction) as much time and effort must be devoted to the art, craft and science of teaching as to the core skills associated with general and specific subject matter and discipline knowledge. Why do we seem so reluctant to emulate those in the world who have already succeeded in offering EVERY student the best teachers from the top of their classes...(?)...NO CHOICE! The school that ANY student might attend is of LITTLE or no consequence because EVERY teacher in EVERY school is the best the state or the country has to offer. Such educational settings already exit on planet Earth.......We need to emulate them. In order to continually improve, the best teachers need time to help and learn from each other.....teachers need about half of their working day to prepare their lessons and half of their time to teach their students.......Finland does this for its students; do Michigan's students deserve less?
Wed, 01/28/2015 - 1:10pm
Finland also has much less wealth inequalities and focuses on providing an equitable education, that is, those who need more, get more. The #1 factor in student achievement (particularly as we measure on standardized tests) is out of school factors (family income, home/community environment). Finland seems to recognize this, why not the US?? Teacher quality is the #1 "in school" factor, so is class size, but I agree with those that say the focus of their knowledge should be on the subject they are teaching. Seems like testing is one of those over-simplified "fixes." And the cost of teach tests is paid for by the teacher candidate...heard MDE wanted to increase it by 300%...hmmm. One way to increase revenue.
Wayne O'Brien
Thu, 01/29/2015 - 4:51pm
Possibily more significant than the lackluster testing results summarized in this article was the graphic indicating that in Michigan there are 26 venues "attempting" to prepare teachers. Finland has 11 professional teacher preparation facilities .... In Finland all teachers must have a master's degree before employment. Accordingly, only universities in Finland prepare teachers. Michigan legislators and policy makers may need to proceed with a needs assessment to determine an optimal number of teacher preparation venues for the state. Those Michigan higher education personnel who are most adept at pre-selecting teacher education candidates and then preparing highly effective and successful teachers could be encouraged to facilitate excellent teacher preparation programs at fewer, but higher caliber, university settings while those Michigan higher education personnel who have demonstrated themselves to be less capable could be encouraged to begin searching for positions in other states. Also, It has been very puzzling to read several comments calling for Michigan legislators to take the basic skills test. Considering that each of Michigan's teachers may potentially provide 30+ years of vitally important service to hundreds of students, it ought to be clear that only the best ought to be selected and invited to educate the most precious natural resource we have; our children. Legislators are "tested" at elections. For them failure at election time is a majority of no votes.....For our children, success (or failure) is everyone's responsibility; but especially parent's and teacher's responsibility. Children deserve the best we have to offer; intentions, resources and above all the most highly skilled and effective, high quality teachers.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:32pm
I love all these comments and all the solutions to our educational concerns. For those who think teaching is the gravy train,try it. You don't have a clue what teachers deal with each and every day. Are others careers as challenging and difficult you bet. Just remember at the junior high and high school levels your are potentially facing 150 plus different individuals each and every day and not necessarily for the entire year. Remember we don't pick our students, we take what you send us and most of us try our hardest to do our best Give me your list of professions that start at near $30,000 a year. Oh yes and don't tell me that we only work 185 days a year. Then change the school year if you don't think we work enough. Go walk in their shoes and then let me know how you do. Most of us don't understand or realize what people do in their jobs or profession but we think we have all the answers. Teachers aren't all miracle workers. R.L.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 2:08am
R.L., Where is the 'cheese'? Make a list of professions that don't have some complaints of being under appreciate, misunderstood, abused in the media, that didn't take sacrifice to enter, that don't require to work long hours, etc., you may find it is a very short list. The smartest approach is to stop railing against the the images being painted and try to understand why it is happening, identify and investigate what is percipitating the perceptions, then develop means and methods to address the problems. There are many professions, industries, businesses that have face worse and turned the problem into a strength and become those that are turned to for answers on new problems. Why havent the 'teachers' taken the initative and proposed their own criteria, why have they talked about what support parents and the community could provide, why haven't they been educating the public on what is involved in teaching (both the subject knowledge and the indirect interpersonal skills), why set back and leave to others to frame the issues? A personal note, every year and every teach we talked to asking what we could do to help our children learn, the answer was 'leave to the professionals', our daughters and their husbands are hearing much same answer today. Those type of remarks are building a wall between support and disatisfaction, and that feeds the frustration you are experiencing.
Tue, 01/20/2015 - 10:38pm
Matt give me that list of 4 and 5 year degrees that pay what they pay teachers. Oh yes and then require an additional 16 credits in the next few years out of college. Oh yes and then test the results of their professional performance. What do you do for a living? R.L.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 1:43pm
RL - Social worker and librarian are two jobs that require MA degrees for entry, and typically have starting salaries below what teachers get per year. But for these professions, a year of work is 2000+ hours or 200 work days. At the BA/BS only level, I'll add counselor, clergy, retail store worker or manager, phlebotomist and other medical technicians, insurance billing specialists, appointments clerks for medical and service providers, and so on. Nurses used to be part of this group, though now BSRNs make a little more than teachers do / hour. Teachers who do a good job deserve what they are paid, but teachers in Michigan are very well paid when compared to people in other professions with similar educational requirements and similarly "no choice of clients" working conditions.
Wed, 01/28/2015 - 1:30pm
I hear over and over how teachers in Michigan are so highly paid when compared to other states. Could you cite the study? (Please don't say Fordham or Mackinac Center.) Over the last 5 years many Michigan teachers have had their wages and benefits cut, so hope the study is current. I also hope it includes all the charters and doesn't include the Administrators making 6 figures and up. Those I know teaching in charters are stuck in the $30k range, ($40ks if lucky) and starting in the $20k range. That said, I think what drives most people out of the profession are people who insult or patronize teachers and blame them for things beyond their control, like poverty and high incarceration rates (ala "School to Prison Pipeline"). It's those who say how important great teachers are, but won't listen to them, particularly when they organize into a Union, or when, God forbid, they say they need anything that costs money. I believe teachers being truly respected (including provided due process like tenure) and valued would a lot more then higher compensation.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:12am
Maybe the schools should start teaching for the test. It would seem that the State believes those are the right topics and questions, so why not teach those? The alternative is for the teachers who are successfully teaching develop a test that better reflects what they have found to be important in the classroom. I wonder why that hasn't hsppened yet, it surely would eliminate all the current frustrations and confusion.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:39am
The arguments that teachers don't need to know high school or, to be generous, introductory college-level mathematics or writing/reading comprehension sound reminiscent of junior high students who argue they'll never use algebra again. The point is not whether a social sciences teacher needs to know calculus in order to teach his or her subject, but rather that the people allowed to enter the education training programs, let alone those who graduate from said programs, are those who are able to hold themselves forth as having the basic background of general knowledge to effectively lead students. For most of our history, teachers were among the most well educated people in our communities. Shouldn't we expect that those entering the teaching programs at our universities are above-average students themselves? I cringe to see the notes my colleagues send home to parents, riddled with grammatical errors. How do I explain to students that their incorrect use of language will reduce their future opportunities when my coworkers do precisely what I set forth as a problem? The best thing for the profession is to limit those who may enter the ranks of teachers. I want to work with the best and the brightest and as a parent, I would want to know that my child's teacher was at least able to realize the equivalent of a 75th percentile score on a college entrance exam. How else is that person going to help my child meet the academic challenges before her? Rather than being offended by the new requirements, I would hope fellow educators would welcome the opportunity to ensure those who student teach in our buildings, as well as our future colleagues, are among the most capable students our state boasts.
Veteran Teacher
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 5:28am
Is this old news? That is, have you updated the PRE test results since you last published it? Specifically, are the scores trending upward, downward, or are they stagnating? Second, it was initially reported that the writing test gave prospective teachers the most trouble. Is this still the case? At this time, it's not apparent that students have to be strong writers to attend any of our colleges and universities. For example, the writing portion of the ACT is very formulaic, many schools don't require essays on their applications, and even schools that do (e.g. schools on the Common App like UM) typically use "holistic" entrance criteria that apparently favor standardized test scores over the quality of students' writing. Finally, it is VERY ironic that the math standards in the PRE VERY closely resemble the old math "huskies" that were abandoned by the MDE in favor of the CCSS. I could be mistaken (and I don't have the time to check), but I seem to remember an MDE memo given to the SBE that claimed the new PRE would better predict whether prospective teachers had the requisite knowledge to teach the CCSS. If this is true, how can the two be reconciled?
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:19am
Dear Vet. teacher. Spell out the acronems Sorry on the spelling for those who don't know what they stand for. Thank You , oh yes and Huskies also. R.L.
Veteran Teacher
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:35am
"CCSS" is "Common Core State Standards" "huskies" is "High School Course Content Expectations" "MDE" is the "Michigan Department of Education" "PRE" is "Professional Readiness Exam" "SBE" is the "State Board of Education" BTW (i.e. "by the way"), here (http://tinyurl.com/lo55h9l) is the memo that says that the new PRE will "align to new standards [e.g. the common core]...." Again, the irony is that the MDE abandoned standards that more closely resembled (e.g. in logic) what prospective teachers were supposed to know before taking the PRE; in fact, they instead adopted standards (i.e. the CCSS) that aren't on the PRE but that the MDE says prospective teachers will be expected to eventually teach.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:23am
Matt I am still waiting for the list of those professionals that are paid what teachers are paid after college. . Check out many of the states in the South and the Dakotas what they pay teachers. Good teachers are never paid enough bad are paid way too much. R.L.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 7:31am
Check out the theory of multiple intelligence , Try this as an experiment have the student one on one read the question to you, then have them explain what it is asking, then explain it to you in their own words. It isn't always how smart you are but how you are smart. Think about it and your learning style. Have a nice day R.L.
Martha Toth
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 11:14am
I took both old and new sample tests. The reading sections were identical, and I have no complaints about them. The math on the newer test was much harder, and I did not get them all right. It is instructive, I think, for folks to see how much is required of our high school students today. I doubt that many decrying the quality of our teachers (including legislators) could pass that math test. This is why so many of our high school grads are deemed "not college ready": they are expected to be as proficient in math as those planning to enter technical fields. I could answer those questions forty years ago, when my SAT and GRE math score percentiles were in the 90s. But I can't today, because I haven't used trig or logs since then. That does not mean I am unqualified to teach many subjects at many levels. That said, I have known too many elementary school teachers who had not mastered the math and science we expect of fifth graders, which is deplorable.
Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:50pm
Many of these posts are from teachers. If you notice the poor grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, etc it is easy to conclude that setting a higher standard for teachers is sorely needed. In my field I read reports from colleagues and am shocked at the lack of basic writing skills. Reading this article and the subsequent comments explains much.
Thu, 01/22/2015 - 4:48am
I'm not surprised at these results. Many years ago I was an engineering student living in East Quad, which happened to be close to the College of Education. Education majors were looked down upon; the saying was "if you can't major in anything else, there's always education." Although I've never seen the numbers, rumor has it that the SAT (or ACT) scores of education majors are the lowest for all undergraduates in Ann Arbor (except athletics, perhaps). Then, having said that, I note that the Ann Arbor pass rate on this test (71%) is head & shoulders above all other state institutions. That doesn't say much about overall teacher quality.
Jerry Matuszak
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 7:31am
I wish the State of Michigan had a comparable test that prospective state and federal legislators must pass before they could run for office.
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 12:16pm
Anna I don't want to diminish any ones profession ,pay or value. Your comparisons of Degrees similar are not accurate. A phlebotomist requires a few months of training and it costs 1000$ for the training, not all social workers have a masters Degree. Retail store workers and appt. clerks, and Med Techs (your words) do not require the same level of testing, education etc. I know they all work year round and teachers don't. Let's change that or when they are not hired during the summer let them draw unemployment. I know many Assoc. Degree graduates making far more than starting teachers. My point was that they MUST as a teacher continue their schooling just to keep their jobs. Teachers are a part of the challenges ahead of us in the future. I would challenge any politician to take the SAT, the ACT, and the teacher tests and publish their score without using names. We might be surprised. Have a nice day R.L.
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 12:19pm
Jerry right on. You won't live long enough to see that happen. I would be happy to help write that EASY test. Peace R.L.
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 12:22pm
Bob I agree, what's your solution? R.L.
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 12:30pm
Given the challenges we give teachers everyday I am sometimes amazed how well they do. Try teaching a kindergarten with 32 5 year olds even with the help of an aide . Some can't count,read,spell , know their colors , have behavioral and physical challenges yet they come to us to have us perform miracles. Walk in their shoes and then go visit their homes. R.L.
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 1:44pm
Given the fact the MTTC has the content standards online at: http://www.mttc.nesinc.com/MI_viewFW_opener.asp, which lists set of content standards by subject a pre-service teacher is seeking credential in, I believe that the people who are passing may be reading and studying those items correctly. As a teacher who serves and mentors pre-service teachers I have worked with many who think the textbook and answer keys they will receive upon employment will do the job. That because they took classes in college and passed, that is all that was required of them. Colleges of Education may have to add elements to their program to help applicants reach the high level of expectations that are required to manage a classroom and show of mastery content, as well as add a standard-based study class to prepare for the test.
Chuck Jordan
Sun, 01/25/2015 - 1:46pm
Pearson wins again.
Craig Schmidt
Mon, 01/26/2015 - 8:07pm
I would add my comments, but from reading the first few, mine would just be repetitive. Are those of you who believe your best test-takers necessarily make your best teachers getting the message that a high accumulation of knowledge is the least important (not unimportant) component of an effective teacher??? Some of the smartest teachers (people) I've known lacked the skills to teach a duck how to swim. It is true teacher that an effective teacher needs the right combination of "competence" and "character" but those who know what it takes to be effective with children understand this equation is heavily, heavily weighted toward the "character" of the person. This person must possess minimal competence (knowledge). You don't need to know much to teach a duck to swim. Craig Schmidt - teacher-education teacher
Arts Administrator
Tue, 01/27/2015 - 1:16pm
I took both tests and think that these tests are flawed and ineffective. I say "flawed" because the structure of questions, especially in the math section, are not transparent. One has to decode the question more than necessary to undertake finding the answer. Two of the four questions I missed because I misread or misunderstood the question. Some of that is my fault, surely, but it does make me question the structure of the writing. The other two, dealing with statistics and trigonometry, are in the distant reaches of my math classes from 30 years ago. I wonder, however, is this level of mathematics being taught to people preparing to teach elementary school? Is this knowledge truly considered "basic?" The reading portion was acceptable, but the structure of its questions were once again unnecessarily wordy. I'm concerned that this test is being used to bash teachers and people preparing for teaching. If you read the thread above, there are a number of people who are essentially calling teachers lazy and stupid. As the wife of a 30 year high school English teacher, who taught more than 200 students a day, I know the reality is different.. To be "on" and fully engaged for 6 hours a day, dealing with a myriad of learning styles, personal issues, language and cognitive barriers, then come home and grade papers, devise tests, and keep up on the reading is a routine no stupid or lazy person could maintain. As someone who finds giving a 2 hour workshop with 30 people demanding and requiring intense preparation, I wonder how teachers keep that level of energy and engagement going day in and out. The problem with teaching is in the way modern classrooms are structured to operate like a factory. Until we change the fundamental delivery system to promote personalized and integrated learning, we will continue to be unhappy with educational outcomes. Students aren't widgets who can be deemed "educated" when they receive the same standardized packets of curriculum. People are educated when they can use the resources at hand to solve the problems at hand in a socially responsible and efficient fashion. All the people, especially sanctimonious legislators, who complain about teaching, should take this "easy test", then go give the "easy job" of teaching a try. They'll soon find out just how damn difficult it is.
Mon, 02/02/2015 - 5:20pm
The most frustrating element of this entire debate is that most--even of these replies here--are missing our illustrious state superintendent's claim that the PRE is a test of _high school_ competency. The inability of so many Michigan students to pass this examination is, if his claims are to be taken seriously, a massive indictment of his, the State Board of Education's, and the State Legislature's failure to effect meaningful change in the P-12 system despite 20-plus years of constant "reform," a constant moving of the learning targets teachers and school districts have been expected to hit. If it were a valid examination (which it is not), it would constitute exhibit A of the evidence that reform since the publication of _A Nation at Risk_ has yielded exactly the opposite result of what this crop of education reformers, Mike Flannigan among them, has claimed for their project. The state, and the nation, were better off before all these furious efforts set about making our children progressively dumber.
Wed, 05/20/2015 - 10:15pm
Just took and passed the PRE. I've taught for 10 years oversees. First, the practice test is nothing like the real one. The former is much easier than the latter. Second, the test was hard but I passed because I studied for 3 months. I am a French teacher so Math is not my forte. I encourage anyone taking the PRE to start studying early for this exam.
Thu, 08/06/2015 - 6:42pm
Help! I just took the PRE and did not do well. What do you suggest as effective study guide materials? I have college degrees and over 7 yrs experience in my field and I'm trying to take what I know to the high school level and this exam is in the way. I have spent many hrs studying and watching tutorial videos and still didn't not do well. Thank you!!
Thu, 08/06/2015 - 6:38pm
This PRE is not basic in any way. I have a B.S in Animal Science from MSU and have worked for USDA for over 7 yrs now. I have a career change to teach high school Agricultural Science. I have more than enough experience and knowledge to teach this but this "PRE" exam as they call it is a joke. Something needs to be done or there won't be any effective teachers to fill positions. Since when does 45 questions in math, reading, and writing justify anyone from being a great teacher. Such a waste of money and time. I would like to see the board take this exam and see how well they do. Enough said!
Chuck Jordan
Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:22pm
I hope Bridge will do an update/follow up story on how education students are doing now. Also update us on how much Pearson is making on these tests.
Sat, 04/16/2016 - 4:26pm
UM at Ann Arbor should be the only school that provides teacher candidates to fill the thankless, low pay, under-appreciated teaching positions in the state since their aspiring teachers passed most often.
Ty Jansma
Wed, 05/25/2016 - 8:19am
Absurd. This test doesn't apply a bit to general teaching. If I am an English or elementary teacher, why should I be required to know college level math? This test further proves educators do NOT create this test, and it is a cash cow for the state of Michigan. Don't let them fool you, it's all about stealing our $. Disappointed. I've passed this test in each state (3 others). Michigan's doesn't even tell you what you got incorrect, or areas of weakness so you can improve like other states. Failed system, failed test.
Thu, 06/09/2016 - 6:31pm
I have taken the Mttc 5 times since 2010, each time coming within 5 points of passing. I passed the PRE in 2010, but according to Michigan, since I have not earned a certification or passed the MTTC within 5 years of taking the PRE, I have to retake the PRE???! I am beyond frustrated, I'm horrible with multiple choice test and my dream of being a teacher has gone out the door. I'm going to be 38 years old and the career that I have worked hard for is no longer an option for me. It's very disappointing.
Tue, 10/27/2020 - 8:01pm

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