By Efrain Monterroso
As a first-generation college graduate, I am grateful for my college experience, but it was sometimes a struggle to navigate the higher education system. Even though I enjoyed most of my college life, there were obstacles along the way.
Some obstacles are necessary challenges that lead to professional growth, but others, such as the edTPA, present barriers to teacher recruitment. This is disproportionately true for first-generation college and minority students like myself. Many such students are left behind because of a meaningless score that does not represent them as a potential educator.
EdTPA is a final portfolio project that takes over a prospective teacher’s senior year of college, and it discourages many students from continuing onto student teaching or pursuing a teaching certificate. It gets even worse for those of us who move forward with it. We are eager to get into the classroom and begin our student teaching—all while paying tuition—but instead we are pushed to our limits by having to spend countless hours outside the classroom to meet the demands of edTPA.
The edTPA portfolio requires prospective educators to stage a lesson in a cooperating teacher’s classroom, record it on video, and evaluate their performance while answering questions to justify their choices and explain their reasoning at various points throughout the lesson. This portfolio takes the humanity out of the student teaching experience by requiring unrealistic expectations both pedagogically and logistically.
For many, student teaching is the first time they are adjusting to a full-time work schedule, mapping a daily commute, taking on a full teaching load and navigating the quick pace of a school environment. EdTPA takes away the opportunity to learn from those appropriately stressful experiences by consuming time and transferring the stress to passing the edTPA.
Feeling comfortable alone in front of the class is hard enough for student teachers since it is their first time creating lesson plans, creating or acquiring materials, grading assignments and managing a classroom. To add even more pressure, student teachers are regularly observed by their cooperating teachers, content specialists, school administrators and a methods specialist.
EdTPA is a project that takes an unjustifiable amount of time from their student teaching experience. For example, student teachers are often taken away from their classrooms to attend workshops that explain how to complete the portfolio rather than how to improve their pedagogy. This takes time away from receiving effective feedback from those observing the prospective teacher’s performance in person.
The saddest part is that one would think that after spending months on a project that leads toward certification, the outcome would be much more than a number. Instead, all the student teacher receives is an empty score and generic comments. This is much less valuable than the productive criticism we promptly receive from the observers who come into our classrooms.
Colleges and universities already have support systems and mentors to ensure that student teachers grow during their student teaching experience. In-person mentors and observers mean more to us than a score coming from a third-party company.
New Jersey lawmakers are considering legislation that would eliminate the edTPA as a requirement for prospective teachers. Please help bring back humanity to teacher education by reaching out to your state Assembly members to either thank them for signing onto A-677 or encouraging them to do so. Your action will help to ensure that there will be teachers in the field who are diverse, invested and equipped to educate our future.
Efrain Monterroso is a Spanish teacher at Hightstown High School and a member of the East Windsor Education Association. He represents the Mercer County Education Association on the NJEA Congressional Contact Committee and is the county’s Legislative Action Team co-chair and PAC Endorsement Committee member. He graduated from Montclair State University, earning his Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing in Spanish Secondary Education and is a master’s degree candidate in Education Policy and Analysis from Harvard Graduate School of Education.
TAKE ACTION: Tell the Assembly to eliminate edTPA
Write to your representatives in the New Jersey Assembly. Tell them to eliminate edTPA as a requirement to gain teacher licensure.