n 2007, Mark Brenner was hired as an algebra teacher at Indio High School in California. Though his professional background was in business and finance, he was assigned to revamp Indio High School's elective computer class. Previously, this class had only used an A+ textbook. Mark began researching other ways to add structure to the class. "With elective classes, you either build them or they die. I wanted something that would help me teach and enhance my students' learning experience." Mark discovered TestOut, and after considering all that was offered, he and his principal agreed to use TestOut courseware. Mark was pleased with the results, and for the next four years, he taught two sections on an A+ course and saw an increase in enrollment. However, he felt that his program was still missing something.
The TestOut Pro Experience
Upon hearing about the release of TestOut's PC Pro certification exam and seeing the value it could bring to his class, Mark adopted the exam and began to see improvements. "The PC Pro certification really gave our program a boost. It was at that time, in 2012, that I decided to integrate the exam as not just the end-of-year final but as the end-of-year goal for the students, a full-fledged certification that they could take with them after the class. Once I put that into place, that's when my program really took off."
His students gravitated toward the PC Pro certification, a 100% performance-based certification delivered through the same simulation technology found in the LabSim courseware. Receiving a complimentary exam voucher with each student license was also a big plus. Mark saw that new students were motivated to get certified and that confidence levels among current students were high. The principal also took notice. "After the growth and enthusiasm from the PC Pro Certification, we began asking each other, what's next?" That's when Mark got approval to create an additional year-long class for students who passed the PC Pro Certification. By completing the Network Pro course during the first half of the year and Security Pro course during the second half, students would now have a chance to earn two more certifications. "The TestOut Pro certifications are an integral part of our classes now. Everything we do is based towards the exams. They are our key focal point. The students are not just learning the material just to learn it. They are getting certified, and the exams really help motivate them."
Utilizing the LabSim experience-based courseware and Pro certifications also plays an integral part in helping Mark achieve the Common Core standards (CCS) of learning using the four depth of knowledge levels (DOK). With the Pro certifications and LabSim's training methodology, delivered through instructional videos/demonstrations, text lessons, simulations, quizzes/practice exams, students are able to accomplish each knowledge level. Mark uses the Pro certifications as the tool to validate whether the students truly have achieved CCS.
With the success of integrating the three Pro certifications, Mark has now added two more to create a full Pathways program. Broken down into three parts, PC Pro as part one and Network and Security Pro as part two, Mark has now added Routing and Switching Pro as part three, the final capstone class for juniors and seniors. In addition, students who take parts two and three qualify for honor credits. "For me, it's really been an amazing experience. I started with TestOut from the very beginning, and just to watch the program grow and see the level of interest and personal growth among the students has been incredible." Starting with just 31 students back in 2008, he currently has 220 students. "The Pro certifications are the first thing I talk about on day one. At the end of the year, my students get to take something tangible. Their certifications propels them into the next stage, whether that's a job, college, or both."
Advice for getting Pro Certified
"You should take the Pro certifications for yourself to see what your students will be up against, and you should use them as a final for your classes. The Pro certifications help you tailor your curriculum around an end goal. My district really got behind me when they could see a student walk away with certifications. Lastly, if you want to implement and validate Common Core standards in your program, use LabSim and the Pro certifications. The exams are delivered using challenging simulations and real-world tasks that require students to demonstrate critical thinking, reasoning, investigation, analysis and synthesis, decision-making and justification, and so on. I would just say that you should seriously consider using the Pro certifications in your program. I'm so glad that I did."