On Friday, March 6, the Education Committee held a hearing on House Bill 5376, a bill that proposes the elimination of edTPA as a requirement for teacher certification. As a former public school educator and as someone who supports teacher candidates in student teaching and in the classroom, I have worked hard to understand edTPA from the ground up so that I could support my teacher candidates to the best of my abilities.
I became a national scorer for edTPA so that I could best support my teacher candidates in navigating the extensive requirements while student teaching. I did this knowing that our state was moving towards having edTPA become a requirement for certification and that minimum passing scores were soon going to decide who was certified as a teacher and who was not.
While I genuinely appreciate and value that edTPA is a way of making certain that teacher candidates demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to help all students learn in real classrooms, I am deeply concerned at the impact I see it having on aspiring educators. I have seen students have serious anxiety over the assessment. I have heard students say, “If I knew that I would have to do this in addition to everything else during student teaching, I wouldn’t want to be a teacher.”
I have seen aspiring educators succeed with both student teaching and certification assessments but then give up because they do not see the point in submitting edTPA after they have already demonstrated the same knowledge and skills through standardized content area assessments such as Praxis II and Foundations of Reading and through multiple teaching observations based on the Connecticut Common Core of Teaching and content area standards.
As a state, we are seeing decreasing enrollment in educator preparation programs. I have heard many students express concerns over the costs of becoming a teacher: certification assessments begin at over $100, the cost to apply for certification is $200, the cost of having to pay for gas during student teaching often requires students to work as many hours as possible while juggling what is a full-time teaching load during student teaching and while attending seminars to support them in becoming the educators all children deserve.
Yet, the financial burden of working for free for a school district for over 10 weeks a semester is a great one and one that results in many students choosing to enter other fields instead of education. Now, on top of those costs, we are adding an additional $300 for students to submit their edTPA portfolios to Pearson, and this does not include any associated costs for revisions that may be needed. According to the edTPA working group established by the Connecticut General Assembly, Connecticut is “the most expensive state in the region to become a licensed professional educator.”
edTPA is a snapshot of three to five lessons and two short video clips. How are we supposed to accept that a minimum score determined by this measure is essential to determining the knowledge and skills of any teacher candidate? Doesn’t it make more sense for teacher candidates to be observed consistently and regularly by both the cooperating teacher and the university supervisor? Are we looking for aspiring educators who can demonstrate true growth in their practices over the course of a semester or are we looking for aspiring educators who can put on a show for three to five lessons?
If we are committed to edTPA because of the time and money that has been invested in this by various groups, then why do we have to keep it as a certification requirement? If we are going to say that edTPA is the basis of good practice and is a way for new educators to grown their practice in their induction years, then why don’t we change it?
Instead of having a minimum edTPA score as a certification requirement, why can’t we tie edTPA only to induction? For example, low scores in certain areas of edTPA could serve as the basis of a new teacher’s induction plan while not barring the teacher from becoming a certified educator. It could then be on the teacher to grow his/her/their practice in such a way that it would demonstrate growth in the targeted areas.
While I support high quality standards for educators, we have no guarantee that the edTPA is a true reflection of any educator’s actual instruction and content knowledge. I know this because, as a beginning teacher, I worked with many teachers who pre-taught and scripted their lessons prior to videotaping for their BEST portfolios. Anyone can put on a show for two brief video clips, which is all edTPA requires. Anyone can pre-teach a lesson to look good. Anyone can have students revise assessments to get the desired results. But we have absolutely no guarantee that the edTPA submission is authentic and representative of the daily classroom climate, culture, and instructional practices.
All we have is a minimum of a three-minute clip that is supposed to represent what normally happens. Would we ever ask a doctor or an attorney to submit a three-minute clip of them practicing their skills and then reflecting on their work? No. This conversation around teacher quality is simply another way in which politicians and policy-makers put the blame on teachers for the societal shortcomings in addressing the real issues as the root of achievement: opportunity gaps and the various issues, such as socioeconomic inequity, that lead to those significant opportunity gaps, which then result in what is called achievement gaps.
As a parent, I want my young children to be taught by teachers who always do their best, every single day, and not just put on a show for their scheduled observations. I have taught with many educators across the state who excel at putting on a show when they need to, but what purpose do those educators serve when their regular instruction does not engage students or demonstrates significant content flaws?
Those educators all passed their requirements and most of them also passed BEST, which required similar video clips and reflection as edTPA currently does. I urge you, as both an educator and a parent, to ask yourselves who you would want teaching your children: a teacher who engages students and grows their practice every day or a teacher who can put on a show when being evaluated?
Niralee K. Patel-Lye, Assistant Clinical Professor University of Connecticut, Neag School of Education.