On Monday, I attended the Pearson MTTC Standards Setting Conference in Lansing today. I found the event both dispiriting and instructive, and while my confidentiality agreement forbids me from disclosing any specific information, I can tell you the following, much of which is already published on the MTTC web site.

  • The MTTC Basic Skills Test will soon be renamed the “Professional Readiness” test.
  • The test will consist of three subareas: reading, writing, and math.
  • Certification requires passing all three, but individual areas can be retaken without the rest of the test.
  • The test is criteria-based, not norm-referenced.
  • The test covers content, not pedagogy.
  • The MDE is pushing the test as a prerequisite for student teaching, though it seems like universities can determine their own policies.
  • Pearson will send disaggregated data to COES, and scores on subareas will be available.
  • Allegedly, the Professional Readiness (PR) test is “based on Michigan policy documents and curriculum,” though when I asked about this, the MDE representative said it would draw on both Michigan standards (pre-CCSS) and the CCSS.
  • Pearson currently has not plans to machine score the writing portion of the PR test, which according to the rep who led my session, is “much too high stakes a test” for machine scoring.
  • Beyond the PR test, Pearson is also developing a new Elementary Education test. Unfortunately, I was in the PR breakout group, so there is little to relate here.

My day was spent working in a group of 20 teachers, administrators, and English educators to develop cut scores (passing scores) for the three subareas of the Professional Readiness Exam. Again, I can’t reveal specific details, but I can give you some general impressions.

First, Pearson is not really concerned with higher-level discussions about meaningful writing or the purpose of public education. Not a surprise. On repeated occasions, I asked pointed questions, and the Pearson rep was unwilling or unable to engage in these kinds of conversations. Case in point: when I suggested that the MTTC writing portion might discriminate against ELL teacher candidates, the rep said that we needed to “draw a line in the sand” regarding our standards.

Second, Pearson has data. Lots of it. And they believe in it. My sense is that any contributions we made today were ultimately reduced to data points, insignificant in the vast amount of information that Pearson has accrued. Whatever happens with the new Professional Readiness test, you can be sure that Pearson has masses of data on every question ever asked. One critical data point worth thinking about: the writing subarea of the PR test (approximately 40 multiple choice questions; two constructed responses) has consistently been the weakest for test takers. Weaker than reading and weaker than math.

So, that was my day. In the meantime, this has been a busy news week for resistance to all kinds of standardized testing (hat tip: Nancy Patterson for gathering these resources: