Poor showing in Massachusetts Exam: Results of the state's first-ever certification test for prospective teachers show problems beyond the classroom.

Sun Journal

July 08, 1998

More than half of the 1,800 candidates for teaching jobs flunked Massachusetts' certification exam this year. About a third could not pass the reading or writing portions of the test; the rest failed their subject specialties. About 63 percent of would-be math teachers failed the math test.

The following questions and answers, supplied by the Massachusetts Department of Education, are not taken directly from the test, which is still in use, but are described by department officials as "representative" of or "similar" to test items.


Reading subtest: Uses passages of up to 750 words, comparable in difficulty to college texts and reflecting a variety of subject areas. One seven-paragraph reading was about archaeology, taken from "Images of the Past," by T. Douglas Price and Gary M. Feinman. Four possible outlines of the passage were supplied, and the test taker was asked to choose the best.

Short-answer items asked for written definitions of given words. One of these words was "abolish." One wrong answer was "a law about something." A right answer was "to do away with completely, to put an end to."

Writing subtest: Grammar and usage.

* Rewrite the sentence in proper grammatical form.

A distinguished scholar and a great teacher, Professor Smith's famous lecture on the pyramids are not to be missed.

Incorrect: A distinguished scholar and great teacher, the famous lecture on the pyramids given by Professor Smith is not to be missed.

Correct: Because Professor Smith is a distinguished scholar and a great teacher, his famous lecture on the pyramids is not to be missed.

* What is a preposition? Incorrect: A description of what is taking place in a sentence. Correct: A word used to show the relationship of a noun to another word in a sentence.

* An error in paragraph organization has been purposely included in the second paragraph of the following passage:

(1) Martha Graham's innovative dancing and choreography have had a profound influence on the development of modern dance in America. (2) Her concept of dance as an expression of the inner self led to the creation of a highly athletic disciplined, and passionate dance technique.

(3) Graham was born in 1893. (4) Her professional dancing career began when, as a teen-ager, she trained and performed with the Denishawn dance company, where she remained for seven years. (5) Her use of violent movement and discordant music in those original works was disturbing to many people, and her creations were not well received at first. (6) The company's traditional emphasis on grace and lyricism, however, was ultimately too confining for her, and in the mid-1920s she began to choreograph, or design, her own dances. (7) She pursued her own course, however, and during the 1940s created some of her most acclaimed works, including "Letter to the World," based on the life of poet Emily Dickinson, and the joyous "Appalachian Spring," for which Aaron Copland composed the score.

Which of the following changes would make the sequence of ideas in the second paragraph clearer?

A. Reverse the order of Parts 3 and 4.

B. Place Part 7 before Part 3.

C. Reverse the order of Parts 5 and 6.

D. Delete Part 7.

(Answer: C)

Which of the following changes is needed in the above passage?

A. Part 1: Add a comma after "choreography."

B. Part 2: Add a comma after "athletic."

C. Part 7: Replace the comma after "Dickinson" with a semicolon.

D. Part 6: Change "confining" to "confined."

(Answer: B)

Writing mechanics: A passage of 200 words, a lyrical description of the sea, is played on audiotape at dictation speed, and test takers are asked to copy it. In addition to numerous punctuation errors, misspellings include "a rest" (for "unrest"), "heavaly," "reseeded" (for "receded"), "teaming" (for "teeming"), "lays" (for "lies"), "barnicles," "alludes" (for "eludes") and "it's self."


The Meaning of the Constitution: The Written Summary includes a passage of about 750 words, titled "The Meaning of the Constitution," on the difficulty of understanding the Founding Fathers' intentions. Test takers were asked to summarize it. A sample response:

In the selection entitled, The Meaning of the Constitution. Interperting the Constitution rases many questons. What did the Founding Fathers mean to do. These are questions we all ask ourselfs, even today.

The major problem with this passage is that, there was no documentary of the debat, so the delegates kept them secret. We can only find out about the convention, in todays newspaper. There are three accounts. One was just a list and one could'nt be trusted.

James Madison was the Father of the Constitution. But he was no good at notes. He wrote a lot of notes on the debats. But also left some stuff out. What we will never know. In the convention, delegats had to debat and compermise. 42 people did not sign and thanks to James Madison we will never know, why?

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