Practice for Praxis (TM)
Practice for Praxis (TM)
(See related pages)

We know that you have many courses and much to learn before taking the Praxis IITM PLT Exam (if it is required in your state), but thought that you might like to practice now with some questions based on the exam and what Teachers, Schools, and Society covers.

Scenario 1: Ben

Scenario

Mr. Joyner teaches algebra and geometry at Prairie View High School. Most of his students take these two classes because of the state requirement of two years of math, not out of any interest in math. While this doesn't thrill Mr. Joyner, he accepts it and does his best to ensure that his students learn. They have to show at least minimum competency to pass the class. The grading scale at Prairie View is rather rigorous: 94% for an A; 88% for a B; 82% for a C; 70% for a D.

Ben

Ben is a sophomore in Mr. Joyner's geometry class. He has struggled in math since second grade, when he had trouble memorizing facts. Now Ben has trouble memorizing formulae. Mr. Joyner thinks that knowing the formulae is very important, so he doesn't allow his students to use notes or books when taking exams. Ben generally does fairly well on homework, but does very poorly on quizzes and tests.

Ben dutifully does his homework each night. While he occasionally asks his father for help, he generally completes most of it on his own. With examples and formulae in front of him, he can generally figure out what to do. On tests, however, he has a very tough time. They appear to be written in a foreign language. He simply can't remember the formulae, so he finds other ways to work the problems that seem logical to him. The results are rarely correct and Ben often doesn't even receive partial credit because the process he used was wrong.

Ben earned a C- during the first quarter and felt fairly satisfied with this. His second quarter grade was a D. He began to worry. "I really need to pass this class. I sure don't want to take it again! Geometry stinks!"

At the beginning of the third quarter, Ben contracted a nasty virus that kept him out of school for two weeks. He tried to keep up in his classes, but without seeing problems worked in class, his understanding plummeted even further. He failed the third quarter of the course with a quarter score of 58%. With the report card also came the results of a standardized test. Ben scored below the 50th percentile in algebra but at the 85th percentile in geometry.

While his parents were aware that he was struggling, he certainly hadn't told them that he was failing. He'd led them to believe that he'd probably get a C or D for the quarter. His teacher did not apprise them of his failing grades either.

Upon seeing the F on his report card and his score on the standardized test, Ben's mother becomes upset with both her son and Mr. Joyner. She talks with Ben about his problems. "How can you fail a class and be at the 85th percentile in the state, Ben? Aren't you trying?"

Ben tells her that he is doing well on the homework, but that he "bombs" the tests. When she asks him why, he replies that he can't memorize formulae. Ben's mother then calls his school counselor, Ms. Patterson, to talk about his problems.

She tells the counselor, "Ben has problems memorizing. He simply can't memorize things that have no real meaning to him. It's not unusual for him to spend six hours memorizing vocabulary words for English, and those he can use contextually. But math formulae are impossible for him. It's been this way since he got sick in second grade. He does well on the homework, but not on the tests because he just can't memorize formulae. Something is clearly wrong here. How can he score at the 85th percentile and yet fail the class?"

Mr. Joyner's opinion regarding Ben's performance

The disparity between Ben's performance on homework and tests is so great that Mr. Joyner sometimes wonders how much help Ben gets on his homework. Mr. Joyner suspects that perhaps one of his former students provides a little too much "scaffolding" in a misguided effort to help Ben.

Parent-Teacher Conference

A meeting is set up between Ben, his mother, Mr. Joyner, and Ms. Patterson to discuss Ben's problems. Due to everyone's schedules, two weeks pass between the phone call and the meeting. At the meeting each teacher indicates how Ben is doing in class. He is earning an A in English, Bs in his small engines and agriculture classes, and a C in chemistry. His only failing grade is in geometry. Ben's mother has both his report card and the results of the standardized test with her. She explains Ben's problem to Mr. Joyner and hands him the results of the standardized test. Mr. Joyner looks at the test score in amazement.

 24 What are two explanations for the discrepancy between Ben's performance on the standardized test and his performance on classroom assessments? 25 What are two strategies that Mr. Joyner could use to help Ben?

Scenario 2: Clarissa

Scenario

Clarissa is entering eighth grade at Monroe Middle School. She has always enjoyed school and is a good student whose name consistently appears on the honor roll. She is particularly good at math and excels at taking multiple-choice tests in other subjects. This year she has Mr. Crenshaw for science. Clarissa has always done quite well at science, as she is adept in memorizing scientific facts. She is looking forward to repeating this performance. However, after listening to Mr. Crenshaw's introduction, she is a bit apprehensive.

Science

"Students, this may not be like other science classes you've taken. This year you won't be memorizing facts and regurgitating them on a test. This year, you're going to become scientists! You will come up with a problem to research and engage in real scientific research regarding it from start to finish."

Clarissa raises her hand. "You mean like a science project?" she asks.

"Sort of, except that you're not going to follow one out of a book and merely replicate it, Clarissa. YOU are going to be the primary researchers of real-life problems that might be researched and solved through science."

"All right!" yells Jonah. "We finally get to DO something!"

Clarissa stares down at her desk in disbelief. She can't understand how it is possible that she could solve a scientific problem.

The next day, Mr. Crenshaw's students brainstorm possible problems they could research. The list becomes quite extensive. After developing their list, they begin to eliminate those that would require resources beyond the district's means (such as travel to foreign lands), are too complex (such as global warming), or too simplistic (which chewing gum's flavor lasts the longest?). Clarissa is upset about the elimination of the chewing gum problem because it is one she thinks she might have been able to handle.

After narrowing the list, students are allowed to choose the problem they would like to investigate. They are allowed to work independently or in teams of up to three scientists if they choose. Clarissa chooses to investigate the pollution of a near-by creek. She also chooses to work independently.

Over the next week, Mr. Crenshaw spends time teaching his students various problem-solving strategies. They develop heuristics. They also learn about the scientific process, from problem-finding, to questioning, generating hypotheses, testing those hypotheses, and finally drawing conclusions. Clarissa is stymied.

"Mr. Crenshaw, why don't you just tell us what you want us to do?" she asks.

"Well, I have, Clarissa. I want you to become a scientist and investigate a problem. How do you think you should approach the problem of Bluff Creek's polluted waters?"

"Phooey, I don't know. How about if we just put clean water in it from the water tower?"

"Do you really think that will help? You'll have to use the scientific process to convince me."

"Groooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaan, can't we just take a test about water pollution?"

 26 What are two possible explanations for Clarissa's preference for tests over the approach Mr. Crenshaw has taken? 27 What would you explain as to Clarissa's idea regarding how to solve the pollution problem? 28 What are the advantages and disadvantages to the instructional approach Mr. Crenshaw has taken? 29 How could Mr. Crenshaw assess his students' understanding, given his instructional approach?

Scenario

Adam is a student in Mr. Potter's fourth-grade class. He is the youngest of 6 children in a blended family. His mother and step-father both work long hours to support their family. His father moved to another state recently. Adam is a bright child, but is not always well behaved. He enjoys entertaining his classmates by making jokes, often at Mr. Potter's expense.

Mr. Potter views Adam's disruptive behavior as a cry for attention. He doubts that Adam gets much attention at home due to having so many siblings and because his parents are rarely home. He tries to ignore Adam's behavior because he does not want to reinforce it.

One day during language arts, Adam began talking very loudly to the other students in his area. He was also laughing and telling jokes. Mr. Potter chose to ignore Adam's behavior, hoping that he would stop on his own. Adam didn't stop. Instead, his behavior became more raucous. Still Mr. Potter ignored it. Soon Adam was making enough noise that Mr. Potter was afraid that students in the neighboring classrooms would be disturbed. He verbally reprimanded Adam.

Adam was a bit quieter for the next few minutes. After that, however, he once again became loud and disruptive. Again Mr. Potter verbally reprimanded him. This time he also told Adam that if he continued with his disruptive behavior, he would have to go to the office. Adam's behavior became even more disruptive. Mr. Potter sent him to the office.

When Adam arrived at the office it was full of people—teachers getting their mail and making copies, volunteers signing in, students who were ill, students sent on errands, and other students who had been sent for disciplinary reasons. The school secretary told Adam to have a seat, which he did. He conversed with every person who entered the office as well as those who were there when he arrived. Half an hour after his arrival, he was sent back to class. He behaved quite well for the rest of the day, to Mr. Potter's relief.

The next day, when students were assigned to write a paragraph, Adam once again became disruptive. He loudly told jokes to his classmates, laughed until tears were streaming down his face, and threw a paper airplane across the room. Mr. Potter reprimanded him and asked him to stop. When Adam didn't comply, Mr. Potter sent him to the office, which was once again bustling with activity.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Adam was sent to the office for disrupting class each day, always during a writing assignment. Mr. Potter was perplexed. Even more perplexing was that within three school days other children were becoming disruptive as well, requiring that they too be sent to the office.

 30 How would you characterize Mr. Potter's classroom management techniques? 31 Why did Adam's behavior persist in spite of the fact that Mr. Potter's attempts not to reinforce it with attention? 32 What are two explanations for Adam's continued disruptive behavior after being sent to the office for discipline? 33 What should Mr. Potter try in the future to prevent Adam from being disruptive?

Scenario 4: Ms. Murphy

The scenario

Ms. Murphy teaches second grade in an economically disadvantaged elementary school. Many of her students read below grade level and are not meeting state standards, according to the standardized test administered the year before. All of the teachers in Ms. Murphy's school are under pressure for their students to meet state standards.

Some of Ms. Murphy's students have had little exposure to reading outside school, and most do not choose to read during their free time at school. Knowing that reading skills are important to future success in school, Ms. Murphy is justifiably concerned.

The incentive program

In an effort to entice her students to read more, Ms. Murphy develops a reading incentive program. She places a large chart on the classroom wall to track student progress. Each time a student completes a book, he or she tells Ms. Murphy, who then places a star next to the student's name on the chart. Each student who reads five books per month receives a small prize, from the class prize box. The student who reads the most books in any given month receives a larger prize.

Student response

When Ms. Murphy tells her students about the new incentive program, most are very excited.

"This is great!" says Joey. "I'm gonna get the most stars!"

"No you won't," says Peter, "Sámi will. She's always got her nose stuck in a book. She's the best reader in the class."

Sámi is a very good reader. She is reading well above grade level and generally favors novels from the young adult section of the library. These books are rather lengthy and take her quite some time to finish. However, she really enjoys them. Ms. Murphy has brought her several from her own collection as well, since none of her classroom books seem to interest Sámi.

The first week of the program is quite exciting. Every day students tell Ms. Murphy about the books they have read. The chart begins to fill with stars. By the end of the week every student has at least one star next to his or her name except Sámi. During the last week of the month many students choose reading as a free-time activity. The students are eager to ensure that they will earn at least one prize and many are devouring books in anticipation of being the month's "top reader." At the end of the month, 23 of Ms. Murphy's 25 students have five stars on the chart. The only exceptions are Sámi, who has only one star, and Michael, who had the chicken pox during the month. True to his word, Joey receives the most stars—fifteen. The students excitedly choose their prizes.

The following month the reading frenzy continues. This time Sámi joins her classmates in their accumulation of stars and receives 30, making her the top reader. Joey is right behind her with 25. Every student in the class earns at least five stars, entitling all to a prize. Because they are all reading so much, Ms. Murphy gives them a Friday afternoon party at which they watch an animated movie and eat popcorn.

A similar pattern is repeated over the next several months. The star chart fills quickly. Ms. Murphy believes that the students are reading enough that they will do quite well on the annual state achievement test. She is thrilled with their progress. She decides that after the test, she will drop the incentive program and just quietly keep track of how much her students read. After doing this she notices that once again very few students are reading during their free time. Even Sámi is no longer reading when she is finished with her other work. Now she draws instead.

 34 What are the advantages and disadvantages to incentive programs such as the one Ms. Murphy designed? 35 Why does Sámi no longer read for pleasure? 36 What are some other ways in which Ms. Murphy could help her students to improve their reading? 37 What are some strategies Ms. Murphy could use to prepare her students for the standardized test?