Buyer’s remorse. NEA and edTPA.

In our continuing discussion of the expansion of edTPA as a licensure process for teachers entering the profession, I reprinted the original supporting position of the National Education Association.

The American Federation of Teachers position of opposition was also posted on this site.

I then was blasted by a series of twittering academics for every imaginable sin. Since I don’t have a PhD after my name and thousands read this blog, my views on this topic are suspect.

For some in the academic world it is always better to publish in journals read by dozens than on blogs read by thousands.

That is why I had to laugh when I read this summer’s review of edTPA published by the very same NEA in its research journal, Thought and Action.

Its circulation is limited, so it should have some credibility.

It’s authors are Deborah Greenblatt, a Ph.D. candidate in urban education at The Graduate Center at the City University of New York with a concentration in educational policy and leadership and Kate E. O’Hara, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Education at New York Institute of Technology.

Neither are bloggers to my knowledge.

As states across the country continue their implementation of the edTPA, a complex and high-stakes certification requirement for teacher certification, there are important lessons for educators and education advocates to learn from New York State’s implementation. As Linda Darling-Hammond, developer and promoter of the edTPA, cautioned at the 2014 American Educational Research Association meeting: “New York is a prototype of how not [original emphasis] to implement teacher performance assessment.”1

edTPA stands for the Teacher Performance Assessment Portfolio, an assessment of teacher readiness developed by The Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) but nationally distributed and scored by Pearson Education, Inc. It differs from previous assessments in that it purports to measure “performance” by requiring student teachers to compile a portfolio, including lesson plans, student work samples, a short classroom video (15 to 20 minutes), and a lengthy “instructional commentary” of 40 to 60 pages.

Currently, there are 622 educator preparation programs in 35 states and the District of Columbia participating in edTPA. Some states are still exploring its use while others require edTPA as part of program completion or for state licensure.2Among them, New York’s story is unique: Although the New York State Education Department had begun working with Pearson in 2009 on its own teacher performance assessment, it switched to the edTPA when it became available in February 2012. The handbooks and rubrics were made available to faculty and students in New York’s schools of education that same spring.3 New York only conducted one year of field testing before fully implementing the edTPA as a high-stakes assessment.4

As a result of the rapid rollout, faculty at colleges of education had little time to reflect on their data and prepare their students for success: “We have basically set up a cohort of our students to fail,” warned Jamie Dangler, vice president of the United University Professions (UUP), the union of State University of New York educators, to New York State Education Department officials in January 2014, “and the consequences will be disastrous for students and teaching programs.’”

With the federal push to standardize a national evaluation requirement for pre-service teachers, all states and their educators must also consider and contend with the impact of profit-oriented corporations in the teacher preparation process. The certification of teachers has been taken out of the hands of the states and now turned over to a for-profit company that has much to gain from a national adoption of the edTPA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Concerns over the corporatization of teacher certification are fueled by Pearson’s lack of transparency. When participating in Pearson workshops, trainings, or test scoring, faculty have to sign non-disclosure agreements. Faculty are not allowed to share materials with their colleagues or their students.5 Furthermore, although the edTPA Myths and Facts document asserts the criteria for selecting and training scorers is “rigorous,” the teacher candidates’ score reports do not include the qualifications of their scorer nor is specific data about edTPA current scorers readily available online.

It is our hope that educators, activists, and policy makers will benefit from the lessons we have learned in New York and join our effort for a certification process that does not standardize teacher education programs but rather draws upon an effectively designed certification process and represents what is important to the profession, not politicians and corporations.

After describing the negative lessons learned by the roll-out of edTPA in New York state, the authors conclude:

The practical and ethical implications for implementing the edTPA are complex and significant. From our experiences in New York State, it is arguable whether or not the edTPA adequately assesses teacher performance. However, what we can say with certainty is that the edTPA privileges student teacher placements; shifts student teaching of candidates to test prep by candidates; has inherent inconsistencies in the scoring by Pearson; privileges certain candidates and higher education institutions; and makes assumptions about candidates’ technology access and skills. As teacher educators, we have learned significant lessons, and so have our teacher candidates. “The moral of this story is to predict what the raters might want, and give it to them, no matter how relentlessly repetitive and monotonous the rubrics may be.”30 A follow-up lesson is that the teacher candidates do truly “perform” on this test, determined to create a show that their audience will like. With edTPA portfolios being outsourced nationally, teacher candidates can only hope that their performance earns them applause from the lone worker being paid $75 per portfolio. Although currently the edTPA is being used by more than 70 percent of teacher certification programs in the country, the flaws are evident. A word of advice from New York: Buyer beware.

I didn’t say it.

But it’s true.

7 Replies to “Buyer’s remorse. NEA and edTPA.”

      1. That’s discriminatory. Why are some given a pass? They’re all kids taught in the same state and in the same districts!

  1. Fred, The reason you are being blasted by members of the higher academic world has been around since at least the 1970s. On 20 December 1973, the Wall Street Journal quoted Sayre as: “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.”

  2. Back in the dark ages, I completed teacher training at a small school in Milwaukee. The public schools were quite pleased to have us student teach, because the students from this small school were quite successful teachers. We were supervised for a semester of teaching by a teacher from the college and a teacher from the (In my case) high school. We were graded on our full time student teaching accordingly. We worked on lesson plans which were used in the school to which we were assigned. Our work was discussed with both supervisors, and in groups of student teachers and with professors at the college. If we had deficiencies, they were pointed out, and we worked on eliminating them. Most of the students in this program went on to be highly successful lifetime teachers in their respective fields. There was considerably more than twenty hours of training behind the guidance and instruction we received.

    The approach currently contemplated is profit driven, and will result in profit, not in education or educators. Our schools will train students, not educate them, and that is really what the business world wants – workers, not thinkers. Thinking is so damnably inconvenient and messy.

  3. Amazing. Now, not only are students subjected to round after round of standardized tests, teachers are too. We take eager teaching candidates and, using this method, beat any sense of excitement out of them through this process, to give them low-paying, low-prestige jobs. How many will simply throw up their hands and think they can use their degree to get a job out of education, and maybe make more money? Pearson, the education establishment (that does not include teachers), and other corporate entities attempting to excoriate teachers have their newest way to corporatize education: ensure there are not enough public school teachers.

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