The unintended consequences of edTPA

As educators who work with college students interested in becoming teachers, we wholeheartedly agree that the education system needs intelligent, committed, well-prepared individuals staffing its classrooms. Teachers should be held to high standards and continually work to improve their practice. We recognize the benefits of “using multiple measures of teacher performance” (Sato, 2014, p. 2) to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both teachers and teacher education programs. And while the edTPA assessment system was designed to produce such outcomes, we believe that the system is a dangerous and inappropriate tool for assessing the capabilities of pre-service teachers.

The realization that the edTPA has indeed proven detrimental to our students’ growth and professional development prompted us to write this essay, as previous reports on edTPA have not adequately considered the practical implications of the new licensure requirements.

The edTPA has proven detrimental to our students’ growth and professional development.

edTPA was developed based upon the insights gained from previous performance-based assessments of teaching such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the California Teacher Performance Assessment, and the Performance Assessment for California Teachers. These instruments were considered more rigorous and authentic measures of instructional competence than the multiple-choice written examinations that previously served as entry points into the teaching profession in most states. TPAs require applicants to videotape themselves teaching, collect and analyze student work samples, and critically analyze their pedagogical performance (Sato, Wei, & Darling-Hammond, 2008). Advocates of these assessments convincingly argue that “dynamic assessments can help to elevate instructional quality” (Meuwissen & Choppin, 2015, 4). These activities do demand a level of intellectual engagement more deeply than is the case with standardized teaching tests, such as PRAXIS. However, teaching includes a polymorphous set of activities whose relevance depends on their dynamic, interrelated, and contextually specific nature, and the edTPA has the effect of privileging some of the elements of teaching at the expense of others.

Because our teacher education programs have always required students to carry out tasks associated with meaningful professional development, we assumed that introduction of the edTPA would have minimal effect on our programs. Before adoption of edTPA, we required students to videotape classroom interactions and critically evaluate them. In other cases, we asked pupils to comment on the disciplinary knowledge they acquired outside their education courses and to analyze how various disciplinary approaches to the liberal arts were applied to classroom situations. And in still other cases, students had the space to express their emerging professional identities in personal terms. Indeed, because these requirements were in some ways more comprehensive and more rigorous than what is demanded of edTPA test takers, we remained determined not to allow the new requirement to distort the principles that guided teacher preparation at our institutions.

Given the time pressures that force us to accommodate the natural rhythms of professional development to the practical realities of edTPA completion, we, like many of our colleagues at other institutions, have felt obligated to redesign student teaching seminars so they effectively function as edTPA prep courses. As students struggled to make sense of the edTPA handbooks, we have allocated substantial time guiding in preparing their portfolios. To make room for such test prep, we have cancelled guest presentations by mentor teachers from local schools, reduced time previously set aside for student teachers to collaboratively develop curriculum, and devoted less time to working with students in collecting data for their action research projects.

Our initial plans to treat edTPA as an inconsequential encumbrance proved inadvisable in several ways. The process of preparing their edTPA portfolios exacerbates the substantial pressure experienced by student teachers. Keep in mind that, in order to meet deadlines for licensure, student teachers must videotape themselves only a few weeks after they begin their placements. Many have yet to develop their “teaching legs.” But if they delay this task, they will fall behind on the other components of edTPA. As a result, the lessons that determine whether they will be awarded teaching credentials focus on performance during the very beginning of their apprenticeship. By way of comparison, we wonder how a doctor’s performance would be judged during the initial days of her medical residency.

Student teachers relate that edTPA requirements actually undermine their development as educators. As one recently shared in an e-mail, “participating in edTPA has thus far been a process of responding to scores of prewritten, mundane ‘reflection’ questions, having to drastically narrow my creative choices when it comes to planning and teaching lessons, and draining my checking account to pay for it all. This high-stakes evaluation causes undue stress for me and my peers. edTPA is dehumanizing.”

The demands associated with edTPA also have created many of the “agency tensions” described by Meuwissen & Choppin (2015) in their study of the effects of edTPA. It has become increasingly difficult to place student teachers in local schools. Many teachers who previously mentored students are no longer willing to do so, due to perceptions about the extensive demands associated with edTPA. As a result, the pool of potential teacher mentors has shrunk. Logistical challenges associated with obtaining consent forms from videotaped students, setting aside consecutive blocks of instructional time for edTPA filming, and collecting student work samples have created additional complications. For teachers who are experiencing challenges associated with introduction of the Common Core and new teacher evaluation systems (APPR in New York and PARCC testing in Illinois), edTPA is one testing instrument they have some degree of control over — they can choose not to have anything to do with it. Indeed, the fact that Pearson Publishing administers both the edTPA and other state assessment instruments has fueled public anger over the fact that a private corporation is profiting from state-mandated assessment imperatives (Dover et al., 2015).

Our view is that the costs of implementing the edTPA greatly outweigh the perceived benefits. Are students better prepared to face the challenges associated with teaching? We think not. Graduates of our programs received more thorough, developmentally appropriate, and effective preparation before the new licensure policies were implemented; the locally controlled, formative instruments and practices (Cochran-Smith et al., 2013) that previously anchored their education better equipped them with the skills and attitudes to succeed in the classroom. We urge educators working in states that have yet to add edTPA to the list of teacher licensure requirements to resist pressures to accept what might appear to be an inevitable change, and encourage those who, like us, work in states that have adopted the edTPA as a high-stakes assessment instrument, to lobby for its elimination as a mandated licensure requirement.

References

Cochran-Smith, M., Piazza, P., & Power, C. (2013). The politics of accountability: Assessing teacher education in the United States. The Education Forum, 77 (1), 6-27.

Dover, A., Schultz, B., Smith, K., & Duggan, T. (2015, March 30). Who’s preparing our candidate? edTPA, localized knowledge and the outsourcing of teacher evaluation. Teachers College Record. http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17914.

Meuwissen, K. & Choppin, J. (2015). Preservice teachers’ adaptions to tensions associated with the edTPA during its early implementation in New York and Washington States. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23 (103), 1-29.

Sato, M. (2014). What is the underlying conception of teaching of the edTPA? Journal of Teacher Education, 65 (5), 421-434.

Sato, M., Wei, R.C., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2008). Improving teachers’ assessment practices through professional development: The case of national board certification. American Educational Research Journal, 45 (3), 669-700.

 

14 comments

  • I serve as co-director of Educators Rising, which is powered by PDK. I support edTPA’s role in setting and assessing clear, high expectations for preservice teachers need to know and do as they aim to enter the profession.

    EdTPA’s work served as a guiding document in the crafting of Educators Rising Standards, and we support SCALE and AACTE’s work to help students engage with and succeed on edTPA. As a profession, we need a strong standard for what practitioners should demonstrate before they receive their classroom keys. Educators Rising has been proud to welcome SCALE and AACTE to our conferences and chapters to help students take their first steps on the road to accomplished teaching.

    I disagree with the idea that edTPA is too time-consuming or too hard. The authors of the blog contend that the videotaping, which happens in the second semester of senior year, is too early. EdTPA healthily encourages educator preparation programs to provide students with significant clinical experiences throughout their time as preservice educators so that by the second semester of senior year, they have cultivated enough of their “teaching legs” to demonstrate basic competence. I don’t want my children or anyone else’s taught by a rookie who can’t pass the edTPA.

    Andrea Whittaker and Ray Pecheone make the case concisely in the April 2016 Kappan magazine: https://www.pdkmembers.org/members_online/publications/archive/pdf/PDK_97_7/8pdk_97_7.pdf

    • Frustrated

      Speaking as a “rookie” having trouble with the edTPA, the biggest issue I’m having is the film requirements. I am an excellent teacher. I am not a videographer, and neither was my mentor teacher. I tried to get film dozens of days, taught *two* full month long inquiry science units (easily 4xs the hours of teaching my cohort peers were doing) with tons of academic language support and data analysis, student-driven socio-cultural strategies galore, NGSS-aligned and focusing on lesser-done practices like computational thinking. Yet, I graduated from my program with insufficient video footage to demonstrate what we did. I have my teaching legs, and am frankly disgusted by the implication that people on the wrong side of the digital divide with trouble meeting the technical requirements are “rookies” who can’t teach. Your kids would be lucky to have me. The edTPA is potentially the reason they never will.

      • Nettie Carroll

        Dear Frustrated Rookie,
        As a fellow unaffirmed rookie candidate, I hear you and am right there with you! I remember going through my bachelors program feeling like there were innumerable hoops to jump through….little did I know! By the grace of God I completed that in 2015 and pretty much thought it would be fairly smooth sailing to get my teaching credential. The edTPA debacle has pushed me to my furthest limits. I, along with many colleagues have completed all requirements, spending much time and money for something that I have always wanted to do, yet the end goal, that affirmation that says we have studied and trained enough to teach the children in our communities, is still out of reach.

  • rbeckley

    The edtpa videos of prospective teachers are evaluated by Pearson employees paid a mere $12 per hour. Worse, Pearson graders have only 10 minutes to decide each student teacher’s fate, leading to hasty decisions and huge variance in scores. But worst of all, master teachers no longer make the final decision.

    • jlsteach

      So, you have misinformation on the edTPA and how it is evaluated. Scorers are paid $75 per portfolio and are given a total of 36 hours to complete one portfolio (that is the only clock involved).

  • Frustrated

    I’m a prospective teacher and the edTPA is making me seriously consider choosing a different career path. I have a bachelors of science in biology, experience doing oceanographic research abroad and on islands, an art degree and a freelance design company, several years experience tutoring, working with children with special needs, and I love teaching. So I thought getting an MAT and becoming a science teacher would be a great way to improve society and have better job security. My MAT program was fantastic from the standpoint of helping me learn pedagogical strategies, classroom management, teaching literacy to older EL kids, and handling urban issues. The teacher I did my student teaching under was amazing, all inquiry-based science and NGSS-aligned. According to my school-site mentor, my university program director, and my adorable inner-city students, I’m actually good at this: teaching science. I earned my MAT in June but my program failed hard on preparing me to do the edTPA. I don’t have access to the templates (I had to use Washington’s editable copy available online, and manually compare it to CA version and alter the WA one to match the CA one which is an unalterable PDF that I couldn’t even copy-paste to use for writing the commentaries), I didn’t have access to any professional help or support in filming, and now despite killing it as a high school bio and physics protégée teacher I don’t have appropriate footage or support for my edTPA. So I’m sitting here with glowing letters of rec, a BS and an MAT from good universities, 10yrs experience with kids, and no credential. I’m angry, I feel like I wasted thousands of dollars and so much time and stress. I’m trying to work remotely on edTPA right now and I can’t find a copy of the handbook online. Why? I *want* to do the difficult job so many others like to complain about while doing nothing, and the system as is sucks. I’m not rich, I don’t have a camera that can film 100min block periods or a videographer to clip and compress the footage so it fits on Taskstream, I’m super miserable every single day thinking about this, I’ve started thinking if edTPA is this horrible how bad will BTSA be, and if this is what being a public school teacher is like, I was wrong in thinking I could do it. No wonder our country is in shambles, when bureaucracy burns out prospective teachers before they even get a prelim credential.

  • jlsteach

    So, to me the key comment that you made is this, “but my program failed hard on preparing me to do the edTPA” I understand your frustration and I am sorry that you did not get the support you needed from the program. But to put the blame on the assessment is not fair. The assessment looks at the main components of teaching.

  • Jeff

    The edTPA is terrible. It is purely a money making scheme for testing companies. We pay tens of thousands of dollars on a masters of education degrees where we do student teaching and get feedback from our teachers and peers just to have to do it all over again for the edTPA. How is that fair?? On top of that there are other initial certification tests we have to pay for. To become a teacher in NY/NJ the testing total cost including edTPA is near $1000. For many looking to become a teacher (usually saddled with thousands of dollars in student debt) $1000 is a lot of money they just may not have and the time needed for the doing edTPA is time I’m not working to pay my own bills. The bills don’t stop coming because I have to do edTPA.

    The edTPA for teachers is similar to the BAR exam for lawyers. The difference is lawyers salaries are upwards of 70-160k where teachers can look forward to salaries of 30-70k. The edTPA is a scam that puts up yet another barrier to the poor looking to advance their careers.

    I believe if a student has the ability to pass a comprehensive accredited school curriculum for teachers there is no need for such tests as the edTPA.

  • Amber Swanson

    The EdTPA is a disgusting measurement for teachers. This new comprehensive exam is just another way for someone to make a dollar. Pearson disgusts me. My classmate failed the first time, changed nothing had a rescore and passed. Those who score this are unreliable and the scores are highly inconsistent. One person in my 13 person cohort passed on the first time. ONE. And we were taught by amazing professors. Just another $300 down the drain to top off our thousands of dollars of debt.

  • Frank Mahovlich

    I recently completed edTPA in conjunction with student teaching, and I just have to say, it’s a lot to do on top of student teaching, which is already quite demanding. Also, I think the rubrics attempt to be objective, but ultimately they are subject to interpretation. I wanted to produce excellent work, but I was not clear on what that would look like, exactly, as formatted to edTPA’s rubrics. Moreover, I think that there is a learning curve for faculty evaluators, such that *they’re* not even sure how to score things. I think edTPA is probably a good idea overall, and I have no problem with rigor, I just think we need to ensure better standardization amongst reviewers, so that we can rely of scoring as a meaningful index of teachers’ skills sets. One other thing was that NONE of the teachers in the school that I worked (including my cooperating teacher) had even heard of edTPA other than one fellow who did his preparation at a California university.

  • Jill

    edTPA is a ridiculous, jumbled-up,money-making scheme of a nightmare. I had my submission checked and looked over by a seasoned teacher just to have a score of “incomplete” with no real explanation. Frustrating to say the least. Now, I have to retake Task 3 and fork out another one hundred dollars.

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