Graphic: Rethinking Schools
edTPA is not new.
I have been posting about it now because the implementation of edTPA in Illinois, mandated by the Democratic Party controlled state legislature as the path to teacher certification, is moving at full steam.
If you go back to the summer of 2013 Rethinking Schools has an article by Wayne Au which places edTPA right in the center of the debate over corporate school reform, the Gates Foundation and the corporate National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).
Incidentally, I wrote about the cozy relationship between the Illinois Education Association’s Executive Director Audrey Soglin and NCTQ back in April of 2013.
But this is part of what Wayne Au wrote for Rethinking Schools two years ago:
Conservatives have been developing an infrastructure to attack teacher education at least since 2000, when the Thomas B. Fordham Institute created the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). As former Fordham Institute board member Diane Ravitch recalls: “Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. . . . [The Fordham Institute] established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.”
With $5 million from then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige and the Bush administration, the NCTQ founded the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), which would grant anyone a “passport to teaching” as a valid teaching credential in any state that agreed, as long as the individual had a bachelor’s degree and passed a background check and a computer test. Voucher proponents and advocates for privatizing public education filled the ABCTE’s advisory board, and Kate Walsh, now president of NCTQ, served on its board of directors.
Although the ABCTE still exists as an online teacher certification program (get your teaching credential for just under $2,000!), it lives on the fringes of the national education policy conversation. On the other hand, corporate education reformers have placed NCTQ in a position of national prominence. Diane Ravitch explains: “Today, NCTQ is the partner of U.S. News & World Report and will rank the nation’s schools of education. It received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to review teacher quality in Los Angeles. It is now often cited as the nation’s leading authority on teacher quality issues. Its report has a star-studded technical advisory committee of corporate reform leaders like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee.”
NCTQ supports the use of high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluation (known as value-added measurement, or VAM), including using test scores of students to rate the teacher education programs from which their teachers graduated. Taking a page directly out of the rabidly pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook on education reform, NCTQ has already issued report cards for teacher education by state and is on the verge of “grading” most individual teacher education programs in the country.
Kate Walsh and the NCTQ are part of the cabal of corporate reformers dismantling public education today, and they have teacher education squarely in their sights.
So the edTPA has to be seen strategically as a push back against the forces of corporate education reform. It aims to reframe teaching as a profession along the lines of being a medical doctor or a lawyer (think national bar exam for teachers).
This would explain why edTPA has roots in the ideas of Linda Darling-Hammond and other proponents of focusing on teacher quality.
Like other education reform ideas that seemed good at the time, they often get turned into their opposites with the infusion of foundation and corporate dollars.
I got into a Twitter debate about edTPA with John Seelke, an employee of the University of Maryland and someone who does student teacher placement and supervision
He has been one of the rare defenders of edTPA to comment since I started writing about it.
Seelke’s objectivity is suspect as someone who is employed to implement edTPA.
But he raises a good question:
“Connection to Gates? Is edTPA perfect? No…do it think it’s better than other current assessments like praxis?”
By praxis, John means the current system of local cooperating teacher evaluation along with a university or college supervisor.
Au raises a similar question:
If we sink the edTPA, what will we be left with? In the midst of corporate education reform, will we in teacher education get stuck with whatever Kate Walsh, the NCTQ, and the privatizers have in store for us? That is a dilemma, and I don’t have the solution. I do know, however, that the edTPA has had a significant impact on my teacher education program.
As I have written before, whatever problems there are with current teacher preparation practices, nothing can be fixed by handing it over to private corporations like Pearson which rake in million of dollars in profits or by implementing the plans of the Gates Foundation.