From Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
by Jamaal Abdul-Alim
ORLANDO, Fla. — When Evelyn Perry — an administrator within the School of Education and Urban Studies at Morgan State University — first learned about a relatively new teacher assessment tool known as edTPA, her first reaction was, "This is a lot of work."
But after learning more about the assessment and how it helps prepare aspiring teachers for the demands of the classroom, Perry concluded that incorporating the edTPA into the university's teacher preparation program was also "worthwhile work."
"It really made us focus on what we were doing," Perry said during a panel discussion at the annual conference of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, or AACTE. "It was an assessment tool that was not business as usual."
Morgan State's use of the edTPA is part of a growing trend that AACTE is hoping to usher along even further. Indications are the edTPA will become a more prominent fixture on the landscape of teacher education — and soon.
Starting in the 2013-14 academic year, edTPA will become available nationally, according to AACTE.
Several states already have formally adopted the edTPA. In New York State, for instance, teacher candidates who apply for initial certification on or after May 1, 2014 will be required to take and pass the edTPA.
Other states are merely "considering" edTPA for statewide use to either license new teachers or approve teacher preparation program, according to AACTE.
Morgan State is one of more than 160 institutions of higher learning that is "field-testing" the edTPA. At Morgan State, Perry said, the edTPA accounts for 10 percent of a teaching candidate's grade, making it a virtual requirement for a degree in teaching.
In short, the edTPA is an assessment "process" that is used to help determine a teaching candidate's readiness for the classroom. The "TPA" in edTPA is an acronym for Teacher Performance Assessment. It was developed at Stanford University.
"It's not a magic bullet," said Kendyll Stansbury, a member of the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity who helped develop the edTPA.
"It's a conceptual framework," Stansbury said. "It's just a tool to help you think about what you have to do."
The edTPA is used to evaluate teaching candidates in five "dimensions of teaching": planning, instruction, assessment, analysis of teaching and academic language.
For the planning dimension, teacher candidates must submit "artifacts," such as lesson plans and student assignments.
For the instruction dimension, teacher candidates must submit, among other things, unedited video clips of their instruction.
Teaching candidates who've been evaluated using the edTPA say it has given them a competitive edge and makes them stand out, not only among fellow job applicants, but also among teachers who are already on the job.
Keisha Soloman, a 2012 graduate of Morgan State and one of Perry's former students, was among the first students at Morgan State to be evaluated through the edTPA. She said the edTPA's requirement to video record her teaching sessions made her see things she wouldn't' have otherwise seen, such as the degree to which all students were engaged in her lessons.
She also said it has led her to incorporate practices that have delighted administrators at the school where she a first-year teacher.
"My principal was very happy to see that my lesson plans were very thorough," Soloman, a newly minted language arts teacher at Mace's Lane Middle School in Dorchester County, Md., said during a separate session on novice teachers' experience with the edTPA.
Soloman also credited the edTPA with making her more reflective about what she does in the classroom. The edTPA features a component that requires students to write detailed reflections about their experiences as student-teachers.
The sessions in which Perry and Soloman spoke were just two of a dozen or so sessions on the edTPA — from policy considerations to practical issues with implementation — making the edTPA one of the most prominent topics at the AACTE conference, themed "Embracing the Future: Vision, Venture and Values."
The prominence of the edTPA at the conference was not by mere happenstance. AACTE is actively seeking to make teacher performance assessments in general — and the edTPA in particular — a permanent fixture on the landscape of teacher preparation programs throughout the country.
"Ultimately, the association would support the widespread adoption of this particular one [the edTPA] because what it does for the profession," said Saroja Barnes, senior director of professional issues for AACTE.
"It provides a common tool that's being used to assess teacher readiness — provides us with common language and a set of data that we can draw on to be accountable for the teachers we produce," Barnes said.
Greater implementation of the edTPA comes at a time when university-based teacher preparation programs are facing increased scrutiny and calls for accountability for raising student achievement.
Barnes said if more schools of education would use the edTPA, it would give them a way to better fend off "attacks" from the federal government and other critics who say teacher preparation programs are not producing quality teachers to raise student achievement in underperforming schools.