This 2019-2020 academic year, teacher candidates across Connecticut have begun to take a high-stakes performance test — the edTPA — during their student teaching semester. For at least two years, teacher candidates have worked hard taking classes during their teacher preparation program. They have conducted numerous hours of field work, and have been gaining hands-on experience under the tutelage of experienced teachers. These prospective teachers have often taken out student loans and, in some cases, have accumulated large debt.

Aram Ayalon PhD

Now, for the test, they must also create a unit of instruction, videotape themselves, write a 40-50 page portfolio about their lessons and pay $300 for the experience. They must upload their materials on the web, and send them to the Pearson Corporation, a mega-billion for-profit corporation that hires raters for $75 apiece to evaluate these portfolios.

If the Pearson raters, who have never been in the candidate’s classroom and have never observed them, decide to fail these teacher candidates, they cannot gain teaching licensure in Connecticut. This is regardless of the evaluation those teacher candidates might get from their cooperating teachers and from their college supervisors who visit their classes multiple times and provide them with ongoing feedback. The Pearson rater’s decision also supersedes the grade point average these teacher candidates have attained.

Yes, they can retake some parts or all of the edTPA, but it requires more money and possibly enrolling in another semester of classes.

At a time when enrollment in teacher preparation programs across the country and in Connecticut has declined by more than one third over the past decade, and at a time when the decline of enrollment among students of color is at all-time high, this high-stakes testing presents yet another barrier to prospective teachers.

Surveys of teacher candidates in Connecticut and across the country found that the majority of the students who take the edTPA experience severe stress due to the large amount of work it adds to the already overwhelming work of student teaching.  Often, in order to prepare these time-consuming portfolios, teacher candidates have to give up time that they would rather use getting to know their students and their parents or participating in department meetings.

Furthermore, despite the huge amount of work teacher candidates invest in their edTPA portfolio, they end up getting only a number as their grade — something most find meaningless and less then helpful if they are to improve as teachers.

It’s time for the Connecticut State Department of Education and the legislature to abandon this high-stakes test that does more harm than good. Academic research suggests that edTPA lacks validity and reliability, reduces the autonomy of teacher education faculty, narrows the curriculum of teacher preparation as it focuses on test preparation, and provides yet more control over public education by corporations that continue profiting from testing.

Instead, CSDE and the legislature should provide more incentives for students –and especially students of color — to enroll in teacher preparation programs. For example, it could provide debt relief for those who teach in urban and hard-to-staff schools. It could also provide more release time and more professional development for cooperative teachers so they could have more time for and more expertise in mentoring student teachers.

Aram Ayalon is a Professor of Education at Central Connecticut State University. He is also a member of the Connecticut Legislature’s edTPA Working Group.. 

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10 Comments

  1. I completely agree, as someone who is suffering the ridiculous mandate to pass edTPA for certification. I have passed all state requirements; Praxis, Foundation of Reading, and the Pearson Early Education tests. Each of these exams cost me over $130 per test which came out of pocket. I also had to go through Student Teaching for several months unpaid, while raising my nine year old along. This was especially stressful as both my parents were ill (I eventually lost my mother in December 2019) during the time. I am a 37 year old who holds a B.S. in Child Studies and took a post-bacc route to certification. I did not anticipate having to pay $300 for the edTPA planning my certification journey. The university just sort of announced it at orientation. I initially submitted my portfolio in November 2019, it came back incomplete because ONE section was in Spanish and they wanted a transcript; even though I spoke both English and Spanish on the video with the ELL student so they knew what I was saying. I resubmitted two Tasks (cost of $200) in January to raise my chances of passing this time. I am very frustrated with the edTPA process as university staff as well as my cooperating teacher were unable to help. I hope CT legislators eliminate this barrier so other aspiring teachers do not have to go through what I have.

    1. Hi JoJo, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

  2. How about this? If you don’t like having someone from Pearson decide whether you’re worthy of being a teacher, then why is it OK for someone else to decide what your students do and do not know by way of high stakes testing for our students?

    We hire professors to prepare our educators and they should be the ones to make the decision who is suitable for certification.

    Likewise, we elect local BOEs who hire teachers on our behalf to educate our children. These teachers should suffice in determining whether our children are learning what they need to.

    Get rid of high stakes testing for all. Feel free to utilize a standardized test simply to use in identifying where additional instruction may be needed.

  3. The Professor is dead on. Pearson’s presence in CT Ed is pervasive. Time to put controls and accountability on this outsourcing.

  4. I agree with Prof. Ayalon. Having previously advised in an alternative certification program the amount of stress this puts on potential teachers and the additional cost is unnecessary. All the evidence of their preparedness is available with out this. I’d rather see a homegrown assessment process then another large corporate test! That goes for our kids too…

  5. Every facet of education industry is ripe and full of money for corporations to squeeze. This is a disgrace

  6. I am experiencing the edTPA right now. It is by far the worse thing I have ever dealt with in my life.

  7. I’m currently working to finish my edTPA. Trying to film elementary students is close to impossible. I’m student teaching in an urban area with many behavior issues. There are little to no para professionals, no suspension or in school suspension, and no repercussions. If teachers are absent the district can’t afford substitutes so students are placed in whatever class can fit one or two students. So, the 1st grade class with the absent teacher has to split into classes at the 2nd, 3rd or even 6th grade level. Basically a free day for them to not learn anything. Very affective … Anyway, I really can’t see myself passing edTPA with flying colors unless I’m at a school that’s filled with unicorns and Oompa Loompa‘s. Basically, the school doesn’t exist. Let the teacher deficit live on. Great job CT.

  8. One of the consequences of an education agency is the proliferation of tests. The test-making phenom is a business first & foremost & they market well.

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