What are the MTEL Flex assessments?

MTEL Flex assessment

What are the MTEL Flex assessments?

What is the new MTEL Flex assessment?

On of January 25, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced that they are adding an option to several subject-test MTELs for educators who have come close but have not yet achieved a passing score of 240.  Those who have scored within “one standard error of measurement” (SEM—explained below) of a passing score on an MTEL taken since October 20, 2020, is eligible to submit an MTEL Flex assessment instead of retaking the MTEL they came close to passing. 

Essentially, DESE is allowing people to submit an alternative writing assignment instead of retaking an MTEL.   The Spanish (28) also requires a video submission. 

The eligible MTELs are English (61), English as a Second Language (54), Foundations of Reading (190); General Curriculum Math (03),  General Curriculum Multi-Subject (03), History (06), and Spanish (28).

What scores qualify as “one standard error of measurement”?

By definition, the standard error of measurement (SEM) is a statistic that measures the variability of data across many samples.  In contrast, a standard deviation measures the variability of one sample of data.  The wider the SEM, the more varied the scores.  Most likely in the case of the MTELs, the wider the SEM, the lower the scores on that particular exam.  None of this really matters, but I figured that most of you would wonder why the score ranges for the Flex-eligible MTELs varied.

See the table below.  If you’ve scored within the stated range since October 20, 2020, you qualify to submit a Flex in lieu of retaking that MTEL.   

Don’t worry about looking up your old score reports.  If you qualify, the Flex option will be automatically available to you when you register for an MTEL.  If you are not eligible, the option will not be there. 

Flex-Eligible MTELs

MTEL (linked to exam-specific Flex information)CostQualifying Score rangeAssigned task
English (61) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA900_TestPage.html$69230-239*One written response based on English 61 objective 0014 or 0015
ESL (54) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA902_TestPage.html$69229-230*One written response based on ESL 54 objective 0005 or 0008
Foundations of Reading (190) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA904_TestPage.html$69231-239*One written response based on Foundations of Reading 190 objective 0010 or 0011
General Curriculum Math (03) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA908_TestPage.html$49227-239*One written response based on GC Math 03 objective 0019 or 0020
General Curriculum Multi-Subject (03) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA906_TestPage.html$49227-239*One written response based on GC Multi-Subject 03 objective 0006 or 0010
History (06) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA910_TestPage.html$69231-239*One written response based on History 06 objective 0002 or 0014
Spanish (28) https://www.mtel.nesinc.com/TestView.aspx?f=HTML_FRAG/MA912_TestPage.html$69229-239*One written response and one video submission based on Spanish objective 0013 or 0014

*What is Required to Complete the MTEL Flex Assignment?

DESE writes that “one written response” is required to complete a Flex assignment; however, this is misleading.  For example, I took a deep dive into both General Curriculum MTEL-Flexes because our students have been asking about them specifically.   What is actually required in DESE’s own words is “answering 4 prompts and writing an analysis.”  That sounds like five written responses to me.   The four prompts are to be “no more than 1 single-spaced page and your written analysis should be no more than 3 single-spaced pages.”  Materials published in the MTEL-Flex Assessment Handbook give the same requirements for the English (61) and the Spanish (28) MTEL-Flex written assignment(s).  “Single-spaced” means double the writing usually required for academic papers, so the Flex looks like the equivalent of a 15-page research paper.

According to MTEL-Flex Assessment Handbook, there are 7 steps to complete a Flex:

  1. Select the MTEL test objective
  2. There is always a choice of two.  For the Multi-Subject, for example, the choice is between a history or science objective.
  3. Pick descriptive statements that will be used to demonstrate your knowledge of the MTEL test objective chosen in step 1.
    1. Which 4 areas of history or science will you write about?
  4. Indicate alignment to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks  or DESE-approved resources.
    1. “Candidates will indicate the selection of the frameworks and/or DESE-approved resources where their topic is addressed in their MTEL-Flex template.”
    1. DESE-approved resources for the history include the Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence,  The Constitution of the United States, George Washington’s Farewell Address, Magna Carta, and works by Fredrick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, etc.
  5. Describe the topic you will address in your submission
    1. “The topic…should allow the candidate to prepare an analysis that demonstrates their subject matter knowledge of the content assessed by the test objective…using the approved resources.”
    1. Several topics, “critical areas,” are available to choose from. 
  6. Cite any sources used to prepare the submission
    1. Textbooks, articles, course materials, or other printed or electronic materials are permitted
  7. Prepare an analysis demonstrating knowledge of the content assessed by the test objective and elaborated by the descriptive statements that were selected in relation to the topic.
    1. The submission must demonstrate candidates’ understanding of the subject matter and reflect a Level 3 or 4 depth of knowledge on Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (more on this below).

How Long Will It Take to Write a MTEL Flex Assignment?

In order to determine if the Flex is a good option, one should consider how much time it would take to write a passing Flex.  Compare that length of time with the benefit of studying for that many hours for your particular MTEL.  For example, if it would take 25 hours to research, write, edit, and submit a Flex, would that much studying have you ready to pass the regular MTEL? 

I’m pretty well-versed on history, science, and math; I have been teaching MTEL-prep classes for over 20 years on these very subjects to college-educated professionals with success.  I am also a decent writer and understand the basic conventions of standard edited English, so I can write quickly and not worry too much about not getting my point across and making grammatical errors.   I estimate that it would take me over 20 hours to research, write, and edit a 15-page MTEL-Flex. 

How long would it take you? 

What is the Level of Difficulty?

Admittedly, I had never heard of “Webb’s Depth of Knowledge” before I read up on the MTEL-Flex.  I assumed that it was similar to Bloom’s Taxonomy, and I was right about that, at least.  The MTEL-Flex assignment must demonstrate knowledge at Webb’s Level 3 or 4.  A quick Internet search taught me much.  Webb described 4 levels of knowledge.  Level 1 is basic recall of facts and information, which corresponds to Bloom’s first 2 levels.  Skills on this level include recall of information, identifying or describing, answering who/what/where/when questions, reading maps, graphs, etc.  Webb’s Level 2 is about basic reasoning, using information or a deeper conceptual knowledge, corresponding to Bloom’s “application” level.  Skills include finding cause-effect relationships, explaining, identifying patterns, understanding fact vs. opinion, and comparing and contrasting. 

Reaching Webb’s Levels 3 and 4 is required in order to pass the MTEL-Flex.  Level 3 is described by various resources as “strategic thinking” or “complex thinking,” an ability to explore understanding and relationships.  “Hows” and “whys” are supported with evidence.  Those in this level can connect ideas using supporting data from a text or other resources, use inferences, draw conclusions, problem solve, evaluate, explain misconceptions, and develop plans.  Level 4 goes even further.  “Extended thinking or reasoning” requires connecting and relating ideas and concepts across a variety of sources and examining/explaining alternative perspectives.  Skills include gathering, analyzing and synthesizing information; making predictions based on evidence; and planning and developing solutions.  Longer-term investigations fall here.

Are you ready and able to prove that you understand your chosen topic at one of these levels?

What Level of Independence is Required?

Can you do it without any help?  An entire section of the MTEL-Flex Assessment Handbook is dedicated to “Administrative Review”—which talks about the critical requirement of submitting original, independent work. All MTEL-Flex assessment will be screened for comparison to Internet resources and other Flex submissions.  “Submissions with high levels of similarity to other sources may be referred to the DESE Office of Professional Practices Investigation.”  If you get caught cheating, at a minimum, your score will be voided, and other consequences could include the loss of teaching license.  

I was considering setting up a service to help people with the Flex, but under these circumstances, I do not think doing so is advisable for my students or my company.

Is Submitting an MTEL-Flex Worth it?

There are compelling reasons to submit an MTEL-Flex.  They are a cheaper alternative to taking MTEL subject area exams.  If I had taken a particular MTEL multiple times, I would certainly be tempted to try the Flex. 

If you write excellent research papers and know your subject very well, the Flex is probably a good option.  But, if you know your subject that well, you’d probably just pass the MTEL.  For those who are “terrible test-takers” and know your subject very well, the Flex might be a viable alternative to re-taking an MTEL.  However, ETI’s session on test-taking strategies has improved student’s ability and confidence to the point where they can confidently take and exam—and pass on the skills, strategies, and confidence to their students.

Reasons NOT to submit abound. 

Most of my students who have not had success on the MTELs would require significant assistance to demonstrate a deep understanding of the concepts required to pass.  Sometimes this is due to learning disabilities or ESL issues.  Sometimes students have an excellent understanding of the content but are unable to write well enough to demonstrate competence at Webb’s Level 3 or 4.  Significant assistance is NOT available for the Flex without significant risk.

The directions are not very clear, and there are no specific examples upon which to base a passing response.  Which leads to another issue: we don’t know what it takes to write a passing Flex.  There is no data available to know exactly what DESE wants or how these will be graded, no exemplars.  If I failed a Flex, how much feedback would I get to correct whatever errors I made?  Given the lack of detail the MTEL score reports give, I would not expect much better on a Flex report. 

As I mentioned above, timing is a major and probably the deciding factor.  If it would take me 20+ hours, I would estimate that it would take 30+ hours for my students to thoroughly prepare a Flex, especially if they were without any help.  I would bet that most would be better off studying for the 20-30 hours it would take to prepare a well-done Flex. 

If you’ve come close enough to passing an MTEL to qualifying for an MTEL-Flex, but in 30+ hours of extra study time and take the exam again.  Practice your open responses—our students can send them to us for feedback—or take a class to focus your studying.

If you want more information on how to pass some of these MTEL-Flex exams or other MTELs, read these blogs:

General Curriculum Multi-Subject [ https://joineti.com/2022/01/10/how-to-pass-general-curriculum-multi-subject-mtel/  ]

General Curriculum Math [ https://joineti.com/2021/11/08/is-the-gc-math-mtel-hard/ ]

Foundations of Reading [ https://joineti.com/2021/07/15/mtel-foundations-of-reading-190-a-closer-look/ ]

History [ https://joineti.com/2020/12/22/mtel-history-questions-what-really-matters/ ]

Early Childhood [ https://joineti.com/2022/01/05/how-to-pass-the-early-childhood-mtel/ ]

Communication and Literacy Writing [ https://joineti.com/2020/11/11/how-to-pass-the-writing-subtest-of-the-communication-and-literacy-mtel/ ]

Communication and Literacy Reading [ https://joineti.com/2020/10/23/communication-and-literacy-skills-mtel/ ]

MTEL Program Options

If you would like us to help you pass the Foundations of Reading, General Curriculum, History, or others MTELs, click here [ https://joineti.com/ ]  to register for one of our programs. 

ETI has been guaranteeing [ https://joineti.com/2021/07/27/how-and-why-eti-guarantee-mtel-program-results/ ] MTEL success since 1999.  Let us show you how.

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