Preservice educators dream of the autonomy of their future classrooms. They spend four years brainstorming classroom set-ups, watching procedures executed by mentor teachers, and participate firsthand in the ups and downs of day-to-day life as an educator. Our observations, assignments and assessments culminate in an experience that not every student can say they had in college—the opportunity to be a full-time intern in a specific program of study, tailored to the individual needs and wants of our future careers.
Each preservice member takes on full course loads to complete their double, sometimes triple, majors, and ultimately spends upwards of $1,000 out of pocket to pay for PRAXIS exams and various fees associated with being a full-time student teacher on top of regular university tuition.
At the culmination of the New Jersey teacher preparation program is edTPA (formerly known as the Teacher Performance Assessment). Masterminded by Stanford University, but managed and administered by Pearson since 2014, edTPA is the determining factor for teacher licensure in almost 40 states. It is based heavily on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Performance Assessment for California Teachers.
In short, edTPA is a performance-based test for preservice educators, attempting to ensure that all student teachers have research to justify pedagogical strategies and can accurately use data to propel future decisions and reflection on previous lessons.
At first glance edTPA can seem reasonable—we want our teachers to have strong pedagogical practices, use data to drive decisions and reflect on what went well in a lesson. So why does edTPA have such a negative effect on student teachers? EdTPA takes these ideals and raises them to unreasonable levels for future teachers.
Before teaching, preservice members are required to download and read the edTPA handbook. Its 60 pages provide students with 12 rubrics, a checklist, and specific action items for each of the three to four tasks, depending on whether a student is studying elementary or secondary education.
The first task is to complete a context for learning, which briefly describes the school setting for the lesson. The second task requires student teachers to create a set of three to five lessons referred to as a mini-unit. Each lesson plan must be three to four pages long, including elements such as the academic language/vocabulary used in the lesson, all prior knowledge that students have regarding the theme, topic, or subject area, and research citations that justify why student teachers used certain methods within the lesson.
Student teachers must then film both themselves teaching and students participating and complete a corresponding commentary describing how they achieved certain tasks, such as promoting a positive learning environment, with time stamps to identify where these were evident in the lesson. The final edTPA product is sent to Pearson to be scored by one individual whose subjective judgements can sabotage the career of a promising educator.
The heavy lifting during the planning and post-assessment process is far greater than what any teacher experiences in the day-to-day classroom. As student teachers complete edTPA, they must use statistical analysis to make conclusions about teaching. Lesson plans written specifically for Pearson take hours of careful and intentional wording, not to make the lesson stronger, but to ensure that no deductions occur from one of the 12 rubrics used.
Not only is edTPA an arduous process, but it is yet another cost students must pay out of pocket. In the 2019-20 academic year, college and university students across the state paid $300 each to create an account with Pearson for edTPA. If students do not pass, they must pay another fee to re-do either a section or the entire assessment. This high-stakes testing environment is exactly what NJEA opposes.
Students who cannot pass edTPA’s very high standards are unable to obtain a teaching license, not because they are bad educators, but because they were scored by a Pearson staff member who did not know their students, their classrooms, or their districts. We know what is best for our students—not a random scorer who may live in another state.
EdTPA hurts students economically. Many college or university students in New Jersey are struggling with homelessness, hunger and debt. Adding another cost, in addition to PRAXIS exams, textbooks and tuition, further dissuades students from entering the teaching profession.
It is time to end edTPA in New Jersey. Our future educators are relying on us.