A New Era in Measuring Classroom Readiness of New Teachers?
By Tim Walker
“Every student deserves to have a ‘profession-ready’ teacher on day one,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We can’t afford to continue a system in which some states and districts allow individuals to be in charge of classrooms and student learning before proving that they should be there. Teacher candidates must demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed for effective classroom practice.”
The system may soon be changing. Van Roekel is one of many avid supporters of a new assessment of teacher candidates that is now being rolled out in a handful of states. The assessment is called the edTPA, formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment, and it is the first nationally available, teacher-designed performance assessment for teachers entering the classroom. After more than four years of development and analysis, including two years of field testing with 12,000 teacher candidates, edTPA is now ready for use across the country.
Van Roekel joined a host of new teachers. policymakers at the National Press Club in Washington on Friday to mark the announcement.
Sharon Robinson, president of CEO and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) called it a “transformational moment.” AACTE and Stanford University jointly developed edTPA.
“We now have a uniform, evidence-based assessment system to help determine whether a teacher candidate will enter the profession ready to teach on day one,” Robinson said. ”edTPA offers teacher preparation providers meaningful and consistent data that can be used for curriculum improvement, program completion and other purposes. The most important benefit is to the candidates, as they will be confident about the skills and attributes they have developed in their program as they begin practice in their careers.”
The edTPA process is a multiple measures assessment – developed by the teaching candidate- that focuses on planning, instruction, assessment and analyzing teaching. It’s built around three-to-five days of classroom instruction, usually occurring at the end of student teaching experience.
Teacher candidates must submit, among other things, unedited video clips of their instruction, and each assessment is scored by qualified teachers and teacher educators.
Teaching candidates who were evaluated using the edTPA say it provided them with invaluable preparation.
One of those teachers is Katherine Young, a second-year social studies teacher in Montgomery County, MD. Young successfully completed and passed edTPA during her teacher preparation program at University of Maryland. At the National Press Club, Young pinpointed two components of the program that had such an impact on her practice: the video recording of her teaching and the how her students’ work was assessed.
“I don’t like watching myself on video in the classroom,” Young conceded, probably echoing the sentiment of most new teachers. “But it did make a difference. It was helpful reflection and really provided a ‘reality check.’
Young said edTPA helped her to focusstudents focus on attaining real skills – critical thinking, evaluation, debate – as opposed to merely memorizing content. “It really drove that home for me.”
Seven states have adopted edTPA and others are considering using the program, including Illinois. Chris Koch of the Illinois State Board of Education said Friday that edTPA sets a “high bar”and that the rigor and tools it provides is the exact opposite of what he went through during his teacher training.
“I wasn’t prepared,” Koch recalls. “ I wallowed in isolation when I began my career.”
How edTPA is implemented is critical, Koch cautioned, and will require that higher ed and school distircts build the “right culture.”
“There’ll be bumps in the road, no doubt,” Koch said. “For example, videotaping themselves will make many uncomfortable. So we need to work with everyone- and provide the proper supports – to make this happen.”
Van Roekel agreed and emphasized that adopting a new, rigorous system such as edTPA is only the first step for states.
“We must allow the time for proper implementation, so people can adapt to the new environment. This is too important, but we’re finally getting serious,” Van Roekel said.
“NEA members will be ready to serve as edTPA scorers, support preservice candidates and collaborate with teacher preparation partners to ensure teacher candidates are profession-ready on day one to meet the needs of student learners.”