Should I Take My MTEL Online At Home?

MTEL online

Should I Take My MTEL Online At Home?

Since 1999, my MTEL programs have increased my students’ passing rates by over 500%.  Those who have failed MTELs – literally dozens of times – have passed under my and my tutors’ tutelage. After 21 years and thousands of students, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting which of my students will pass easily and which will need more than the usual assistance.

So I was very surprised last week when two students contacted me with bad news. They got the dreaded Friday night email. They failed the C&L Reading subtest again.

I was very surprised as both of these young women had been aces in class and during tutoring. They both demonstrated a solid ability of finding the main idea of paragraphs and passages. They both understood the nature of the MTEL reading comprehension question types – how to attack each of the 6 types and which you can answer without even reading the passage. They demonstrated in session and in practice that they were very ready to pass this exam.

What else did they have in common?  They took the exam at home.

So what did taking the test at home have to do with their failure?

Taking The MTEL Online: At Home

The Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced this fall that several MTELs will be available to be taken from the comfort of your “home, school, or business.” This way, you can take tests for educator licensure while following social distancing guidelines and taking extra health and safety measures.

The following exams are currently available for “online proctoring”:

Communication & Literacy (Reading and Writing)Foundations of Reading (90)—until Feb 7, 2021
Sheltered English ImmersionEnglish (07)—retiring this spring
English as a Second LanguageHistory
Physical EducationReading Specialist
Visual ArtHealth/Family and Consumer Sciences
Vocational Technical Literacy SkillsTheater
BusinessLatin and Classical Humanities
Political Science/Political PhilosophyDance
Adult Basic EducationSpeech
Academically AdvancedBilingual Education
Foundations of Reading (190)—as of Jan 19, 2021 

These exams, called OnVue, are still proctored; someone will be watching and listening during the exam. They have locked things down, so that any kind of cheating will be difficult. There is a process to prove your identity. They block any other apps from being open during the exam so you can’t Google answers.

There is a quick technology check you do to ensure your system is compatible with OnVue before you sign up. A desktop or laptop computer is required, no tablets or touchscreen devices are allowed. You can only use a single monitor, and there are other specific requirements if you use an external monitor with a laptop. A work computer is not recommended as there may be security features that could interfere with the testing process.

The testing environment must meet specific requirements as well.  The environment MUST:

  • Be quiet
  • Free from interruptions
  • Well lit (so proctors can see you)
  • Private—nobody else can see your exam or in the room
  • Free from “illegal items”—only specific items are allowed within arm’s reach.

This last item is what has led me to recommend to my students that they do NOT take their MTELs at home. The “illegal item clause” resulted in my students’ failure.

The Downside of MTEL Online

I have no issue with students not being allowed to have their cell phones or snacks with them.  The problem is that you aren’t allowed to use paper.

This is certainly understandable. Pearson does not want you to be able to write down all of the questions and Tweet them when you have completed the exam.

Why did my students unexpectedly fail?

The strategies we teach and our students employ all entail writing things down.

If you cannot use pencil and paper, you can’t dissect paragraphs and map the reading comprehension passages. You can’t note the main idea of the paragraphs and passages to anticipate answers to question type 2. 

The same issues arise for the Writing subtest. You can’t rewrite sentences to help find subject-verb pairs, pronoun-antecedent, sentence type and punctuation, etc. Planning the Summary or Composition Exercise without being able to make notes or an outline is absolutely unfair.

Another problem is that you get only a 2 hour test session to complete the exam instead of the usual 4 hours when you take the exam at a testing center.

My official recommendation is that if you plan to take either of the Communication and Literacy exams or the Vocational Literacy exam, do not take the MTEL online.

OnVue is not for you.

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