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Comment of the Fortnight
5 July 1998
Shameless Self-Promotion

At last it can be told. I've been working as a contractor with a company called SOFSOURCE in Las Cruces, New Mexico. This company, which was recently acquired by The Learning Company specializes in budget education software.

One of the products that I did for them, an update of their beginning Spanish materials, has shipped. It's in a Green marble-colored box with the word "SPANISH" on the front with the logo, "Learning Tools that Work!"

It's Macintosh and Windows ©®TM compatible because it is "browser-ready." That is, you put the CD into your drive, and point your browser at the index file, and away you go. All of the material is presented in HTML with some QuickTime movies. All the answer judging is done via Javascript. You don't need to be hooked up to the internet to use it, but if you are, you can use the links to external sites to learn more about Spanish-speaking countries.

Actually, one of the best parts of the product is one that I had nothing to do with -- it's a book that lists and reviews over 500 sites for learning French and Spanish. The book, edited by Edward Knappman of New England Publishing Associates, has a very clean layout, and the concise reviews by Jeff Longwell and Claude Fouillade are amazingly fun to read.

In Praise of a Korean Grocery

Those folks who know me are aware that I'm always talking about moving back to the Midwest, or at least moving out of California. In the past few months, the traffic out here in San Jose has really been getting to me. The housing prices are astronomical, although that doesn't bother me since I'm not renting and already have a place to live. Also, I can do the kind of work I'm doing anywhere in the country.

However. Every time I get the urge to move, I realize that this is the center of the universe, at least as far as computers are concerned. I also realize I'd miss places like the local Korean grocery enormously.

Where else would I be able to get:

Is there any place outside of California where one can find such a treasure trove? [If anyone knows, please tell me!]

Teacher Exams

According to the newspapers, 60% of the prospective teachers taking a basic skills test failed it. If this test is similar to the CBEST (California Basic Education Skills Test), as I understand it to be, then anyone who fails it has no business in front of a classroom.

Anyone who has graduated from high school with a B average or above should be able to pass the CBEST with little difficulty. I had to take it in order to become a substitute teacher, and it was embarrasingly easy. Essentially, the CBEST serves as the gatekeeper test to keep out the truly unqualified.

Of course, the CBEST is not the only test that you have to take to get a credential. In order to receive a California teaching credential in a subject such as math or Spanish, you must either:

Since my math major preceded my certification by some fifteen years, I had to take the math NTE. It is definitely not for wimps; if you don't know calculus you won't pass.

A few years later, just for fun, I took the NTE for Spanish. Although I speak and read Spanish fairly well, I didn't major in it. Sure enough, I failed the cultural knowledge and error analysis sections.

The bottom line: if a prospective teacher can't read or write at the eighth grade level, I doubt he or she can demonstrate subject area competence. People need command of both basic skills and the subject area before being allowed to teach.

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