Did you know that Connecticut is the only state in New England, including New York, to require college students studying to become public school teachers to take the edTPA? This unnecessary standardized test is not only a waste of money, but is a barrier to helping Connecticut develop a more diverse teaching pool. 

Having served as an educator in Connecticut’s public school system over the last eight years, I often hear conversations around the recruitment, retention, and mentorship of educators who are Black, Indigenous, and people of Color (BIPOC). However, these conversations almost always fail to acknowledge the fact that Connecticut has added more certification requirements over the last decade, such as high stakes testing like the Praxis series tests and EdTPA, making it more difficult for people who look like me to become a certified public school teacher.

By adding more hurdles requiring more out-of-pocket expenses, policymakers have exacerbated the symptoms of stereotype threat, contributing to the lack of BIPOC educators entering the field of education. 

Stereotype threat is a phenomenon where members of marginalized communities, who are historically stereotyped in a negative manner, underperform on tests due to increased anxiety of upholding the negative stereotype.

Look around. How many schools are struggling to find certified teachers? How many BIPOC teachers are employed in your local public school? Currently, only 10% of teachers in Connecticut identify as BIPOC, yet half of our students in our public schools are non-white.  This is outrageous, yet, by mandating that all teacher candidates pass the edTPA, our state has made it harder, not easier, for teachers of color to enter the field.  

I currently serve as a school principal, I hold a doctorate in education, earned my degree summa cum laude. Yet as an undergraduate, I struggled to pass the Praxis tests, I spent hundreds of dollars each time I had to retake it. It nearly prevented me from becoming a teacher. 

Researchers have extensively investigated the benefits of having BIPOC educators in the classroom, especially for students of color. This ‘racial matching’  improves student achievement and lowers instances of exclusionary discipline. Furthermore, BIPOC teachers in marginalized communities often serve as ‘warm demanders’ to their students and push them to greater academic achievement while still exhibiting awareness and sensitivity to the systemic pressures that further oppress marginalized subgroups

Unfortunately, using standardized testing to reinforce racial disparities is rooted in America’s history. Prior to the Praxis series tests, the National Teacher Exam was used to disproportionately screen out approximately three times as many BIPOC candidates as  whites. After the implementation of the National Teacher Exam, scholars were well aware of  the ramifications that further high stakes testing would have on the amount of BIPOC teachers. 

Similarly, the Praxis series tests have also been a source of controversy for decades, scholars such as Christine Bennett, Lynn McWhorter, and John Kuykendall have claimed these tests are racially biased, further systemically disenfranchising BIPOC candidates by adding frivolous teacher exams that target candidates of color. 

Unfortunately, the EdTPA is yet another unnecessary, high-stakes standardized test that results in racial inequities of teachers-  BIPOC candidates consistently score lower than their white counterparts on average. EdTPA requires prospective educators to create a unit of instruction, video tape themselves, and write a 40-50 page portfolio about their lessons. EdTPA costs $300, and failing a portion of the test results in a resubmission for an additional cost or forces undergraduates to enroll in another semester of classes thus adding an additional expense.  

Anyone who wants to help Connecticut build a more diverse teaching pool should be in support of eliminating the EdTPA. The commissioner can do it with a stroke of a pen. And I hope that she will, because the existence of EdTPA threatens educator diversity, and, ultimately, harms all of us. 

Rayna Northcutt of Colchester has served as a high school teacher and adjunct professor. She is currently a middle school principal.