edTPA and TFA are two sides of the same coin.


Teach For America thinks you can put anybody in front of a classroom after a few weeks of boot camp training and they can fill the increasingly growing number of classroom teaching positions that cannot be filled by those from traditional teacher preparation programs.

TFA leaders think education majors are a waste of time.

TFA supplies teachers mainly for schools with poor students and students of color.

In a few cases this works.

Some people are born to teach.

But it is not sustainable and teachers leave TFA in a few years, creating a revolving door of inexperienced teachers.

edTPA also thinks traditional teacher preparation programs are lacking. They will argue that TFA and traditional teacher preparation programs undermine the professional status and quality of our classroom teachers.

They believe – and I have gotten an earful (or rather, Tweetful) this week – that licensure of teachers should look more like the fields of medicine and law.

This has not come from student teachers who have been victims of edTPA. It has come from university people who work for and with edTPA.

They got mad when I mentioned Bill Gates.

Gates is all over Stanford’s SCALE, but not edTPA, they tell me.

Fine. Whatever.

I’m told that in New York and Illinois the problem isn’t with edTPA and their 45 teacher functions that appear on their Stanford created rubric.

I’m told the problem is implementation.

It seems the problem is always implementation.

These university researchers have great ideas that just can’t seem to get implemented right.

Even our unions, when they defend Common Core, say the problem with Common Core is implementation.

PARCC testing?


Clearly we have a continuing problem with implementation.

I get it that Stanford’s SCALE and edTPA folks think that if we don’t build a wall of rubrics, the folks at the National Council on Teacher Quality and TFA will end up sending an army of untrained people into classrooms.

Yet edTPA is having a similar impact. The more hoops we create for student teachers to jump through, fewer of them will be willing to make the leap.

And then we will have the situation we are already starting to see in states with teacher shortages. Provisionally certified teachers in classrooms.

That means they don’t know anything about teaching.

45 checks on lists of teacher functions on a edTPA rubric doesn’t make anyone teacher-ready on their first day on the job. Yet that is their claim.

In my experience, it takes five years before you know what the questions are.

Experience teaching and reflecting on that experience is what makes good teachers.

A rubric of 45 teacher functions? On most days I did 45 teacher functions before noon.

Yes, there is a problem with Pearson’s connections to all this.

Yes, I am sure there are implementation problems.

But it is the conception of teaching as a mostly technical enterprise that can be mastered in time for day-one that is at the root of what is wrong with edTPA.

7 thoughts on “edTPA and TFA are two sides of the same coin.

  1. Quality teacher shortages will make it much easier for school districts to move to online learning . Paraprofessionals will be hired to direct the so called learning labs. A small number of certified teachers will oversee implementation (there we go again , implementation ). The goal has always been to get away with educating the masses as cheaply as society will allow. Creating quality teacher shortages is one of many steps towards that goal.

  2. Good job, Fred.

    I wish our nation could start a more rational conversation on education. We need to sit down as a nation and decide what it is, exactly, that we want education to do. I’ve always thought Teach for America is lacking. Teaching is a vocation, something you can’t just walk into, do for a year or two, then return to the corporate world.

    The good teachers I’ve known spent a lifetime getting there.

  3. They want teacher licensure to look more like the fields of medicine or law? They certainly don’t act like that when it comes to a teacher’s pay or benefits. They want teacher’s compensation to be in the minimum wage range.

  4. I think “Teach for America” is the first step to turning teaching and education into a “Peace Corps” type set up, where individuals volunteer to teach for 2-3 years before moving on to their REAL careers. This will create more profits for the CEO’s and investors of Charter Schools. (once they’ve achieved their goal of destroying regular public schools) By the time the public catches on to what a disaster this is, all the CEO’s and investors will have made their millions and not give a rat’s behind!!

  5. “It seems the problem is always implementation.” Brilliant, Fred, in a nutshell! How can it ALWAYS be that implementation is the problem? It never occurs to them there could be something wrong with their fundamental assumptions.

    “But it is the conception of teaching as a mostly technical enterprise that can be mastered in time for day-one that is at the root of what is wrong with edTPA.” Exactly. First, that the most important aspects of teaching are all “technical,” – certainly techniques are important, but it’s so much more than that; and second, that anyone can have teaching “mastered” without a lot of experience.

  6. In addition to all the hoops student teachers have to jump through, student teachers will now have to walk a tightrope, “putting on a show for PEARSON to see”.

  7. Thank you, Fred. As a former teacher and current lawyer, I can tell you that (a) there are real problems with how we train lawyers as well as teachers and (b) that one certainly walks out of neither law school nor a teacher training program (I earned an M.A.T. degree before I started teaching) technically prepared to either teach or practice law. It’s a fool’s errand to claim otherwise.

    So much of mastering both teaching and lawyering (and, from what I understand, of practicing medicine as well) is achieving the judgment required to best succeed. And the only way to obtain that judgment is experience. As a teacher, I left the classroom before I made a lot of progress toward obtaining that experience. As a lawyer, I can tell you that I’m a much better lawyer now, ten years in, than I was straight out of law school, when I not only knew nothing about the technical aspects of litigating a case: I also lacked the judgment to understand when you sometimes do or don’t make a certain argument because although it might be “technically” correct, it is going to anger a judge or infuriate a client or otherwise cause more harm than good.

    We always refer to practicing medicine or practicing law, in tacit acknowledgment that these are arenas that can’t fully be mastered: they can only be practiced. Perhaps we should be changing our language to acknowledge the professional judgment necessary to make the point that teachers are only practicing teaching as well, as a lifetime of teaching in classrooms will not be enough to equip a teacher with the perfect judgment that would be necessary to perfectly teach every student in every class every time.

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