Drs. Andrea Bien and Travis Bristol Participate on MTEL Objective Reviewer Committee

SED faculty, Dr. Andrea Bien and Dr. Travis Bristol, participated on the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) Objective Reviewer Committee December 7th in Milford, Mass. MTEL is regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), with exams being administered by Pearson.

Dr. Bien collaborated with other elementary-level educators specializing in grades 1 through 6 in the ‘Foundations of Reading’ review portion to revise and clarify certain language within the exam. The first of two central points discussed was reviewing biased language currently present in some of the test questions. A number of the group-specific terms and adjectives were edited to better reflect those that the educators felt were being misrepresented.

The second focal point was attempting to change the way educators are expected to engage students in terms of classroom discourse. Dr. Bien mentions the body of research supporting students’ improved performance when they’re repeatedly involved in classroom discussion and debate. Throughout the review, Dr. Bien suggests that these two items were highlighted the most within her group.

After the first-time experience, Dr. Bien asked herself, “Do our students have the content knowledge to pass this test? Not because we need them to, but because these objectives say ‘this is what you need to know on your first day as an elementary school teacher about teaching children to read.’ …It made me wonder if we’re preparing our candidates and I thought yes, absolutely.”

Dr. Bristol was also chosen, along with a cohort of English educators, to review the English MTEL exam. He recounted several instances of Eurocentrism that became apparent when looking at the test’s overall language and curriculum’s choice of literature. In his explanation, there were far more examples of European-influenced ideals being perpetuated through language and literature than any other region. This lack of an educational introduction to differing world cultures was an area Dr. Bristol and his colleagues focused most on.

Noticing this trend, Dr. Bristol shared some of his insight, saying that, “Participating in this gave me clear proof that the curriculum in secondary schools continues to be Eurocentric and that teachers are expected to teach a Eurocentric curriculum because that’s what they’re being tested on. So if we’re going to encourage teachers to have a more expansive understanding of what it means to teach ELA, we have to change what we’re testing.”

Much of what was expected by the participating educators was to refine and modify the objectives by which the tests were being graded. Comprised mainly of classroom teachers, reading specialists, administrators, and teacher-educators, DESE and Pearson sought to update the standards of each exam and confirm appropriate test objectives for soon-to-be educators.

For more information regarding the MTEL, please visit their site: www.mtel.nesinc.com.