By Ellen Bacon, 2016-17 NJEA Preservice President

To put it lightly, I am not a fan of edTPA. To put it less lightly, edTPA is a deterrent to the profession, unnecessarily time consuming and stressful, is another high-stakes test created by Pearson, is an unfunded mandate, is fiscally discriminatory, undermines New Jersey teacher preparation programs, raises massive and widespread security concerns, further standardizes the profession, is scored by strangers who do not know us or our students, and is not nationally recognized.

Nonetheless, I completed the edTPA this past spring.

If you hate it that much, why did you do it?

Frankly, I took the test because I was not required to pay to the $300 fee to Pearson during the pilot year and so I could apply for licensure in New York, should I need to exercise the option to teach in another state. But with Ch. 78’s impact on take-home pay and an underfunded pension, edTPA may be the final insult the leads future teachers to seek colleges and careers in greener pastures.

Was it as bad as you thought it would be?

Yes, and more. First, I was surprised by a required $50 fee simply to access the website to submit the portfolio. As we began reading the edTPA manuals and rubrics, the language was perplexing to everyone around me—including the faculty who were trained to support us. It was unnecessarily confusing. Pearson should have included a dictionary to explain the words it used within the prompts. Moreover, this test is proprietary. Faculty hired to support us were not allowed to assist us in any aspects of the assessment.

What damage is actually being caused by edTPA?

My personal experience with edTPA was certainly better than other preservice teachers. The requirement that we submit a video of ourselves teaching a class created another set of problems. There were student privacy and security concerns that made filming a lesson disruptive to actual teaching and learning. Many districts, and almost entire counties, are no longer accepting student teachers, breaking relationships fostered over years of professional collaboration.

The Department of Education’s “solution” would have us leave our cooperating teacher and students with whom we had a rapport in order to complete the filmed lesson. That contradicts many of the best practices we were taught, such as the significance of building that rapport with our students. It is a recipe for failure.

Additionally, no professional time is granted during school hours to complete the assessment. Teacher candidates are working themselves into the ground. Without sick or personal days granted to clinical interns, m peers and I got to school sick—from stress or germs—because we were overloaded with strict time restrictions and confusing work.

Many districts, and almost entire counties, are no longer accepting student teachers, breaking relationships fostered over years of professional collaboration.

If it is so bad, why is it becoming a certification requirement?

Pearson is developing a tighter grip on the national education, treating it as a market. Between textbooks, PARCC, edTPA, and National Board Certification, Pearson is everywhere. It was only a matter of time before Pearson tried to control aspiring educators, as opposed to those already in K-12 schools.

Additionally, there seems to be distrust between the Department of Education and the state’s institutions of higher education. Our colleges and universities are nationally accredited and already possess assessments sufficient to meet the requirements for accreditation. Why must the NJDOE further micromanage them?

What did you learn?

This assessment is not helping New Jersey create better teachers. We already have great teachers, and are consistently ranked among the top schools in the country. But I took the edTPA when I received my score that is all it was: a score.

Despite edTPA advocates claiming that it encourages teacher candidates to reflect and improve, my classmates and I were not provided any comments—constructive, critical, or encouraging—for improvement. This reflects the experience our students get when they take the PARCC, and now it is where our evaluation systems are heading.

From the preservice #STOPedTPA campaign, I learned that there is power in numbers, and from educating myself in these issues, I know I have acted as a voice for my peers. With any luck, our next elected officials will see this injustice, and remedy the Department of Education’s view on public education and compliance with Pearson in all levels of New Jersey education.

With these issues in mind, I am imploring all NJEA members to join together with the preservice members against injustices like edTPA, just as we will continue to fight for full-time and retired issues.

For more information on the preservice leg of the union please reference our Facebook page, tinyurl.com/PreserviceFB, and our blog, powertopubliceducation.com.

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