By Sharon P. Robinson
Constructive criticism is key to the growth of educational practice, policy decisions, and research. Teacher candidates improve through feedback from their professors, mentor teachers, and students; policies are honed through strategic advocacy by professionals and the public; and authors benefit from the critique of peer reviewers. Throughout educator preparation, meeting our goal to support student learning depends on how well we critique our work and build on what we learn from our successes and our missteps.
But criticism that is based on half-truths or misconceptions, rather than facts, does not support growth. While much beneficial feedback has contributed to its development, edTPA (formerly known as the Teacher Performance Assessment) has withstood unfounded criticism from others within the educational community. I feel it is essential to attend to the misinformation underlying edTPA's detractors' primary claims: that the assessment is being imposed by outside forces and aims to override the professional autonomy of programs and faculty; and that it is a corporate endeavor designed to make money for Pearson.
A national standard for teaching, defined by the profession
Inspired by the Performance Assessment for California Teachers, edTPA was developed by Stanford University and grew to what it is now because of the collective effort and input of actual PK-12 teachers, teacher educators, and researchers from colleges and universities across the nation—and the thousands of teacher candidates who field-tested it. Through collaborative processes, edTPA came from and still belongs to the teaching profession. We created it, and we own it. We have no plans to relinquish control of edTPA to corporations, or to those operating outside our professional community of colleges of education and school-based partners.
We designed edTPA to answer the essential question: "Is this new teacher ready for the job?" To show their readiness, candidates teach 3-5 lessons and submit video clips of instruction, student work samples, and lesson plans. They also provide analyses of student learning and offer reflective commentaries to demonstrate that they can effectively teach their subject to a wide array of student learners. While edTPA assesses teaching, the focus is on student learning – an educational imperative in our country.
Not only is edTPA predictive, providing evidence-based insight into how a teacher candidate might perform as a classroom teacher, it is also educative, illuminating what is and what is not working within preparation programs. In essence, edTPA captures a professional consensus on what the standards should be for beginning teacher practice, while shining light onto how well programs are preparing their teacher candidates.
edTPA does not impose limits on programs with respect to teaching methods, the structure of the clinical experience, or the medium of instruction. It strips neither preparation programs nor their faculty of their power to develop and implement unique, meaningful curriculum for teacher candidates. Programs need not train all teachers the same way, but they do have to ensure that at the end of training, all teachers are ready for the realities of practice. edTPA offers a valid measure of this required competence.
Teacher preparation programs may offer their own capstone assessments to determine whether candidates are ready for the classroom, but edTPA provides additional credibility as a national, professionally defined standard by which all new teachers are held accountable. While respecting the nuances and variances of individual programs, we must realize that national standards are the future of the professionalization of numerous fields, including teaching. With edTPA, we all can ensure that educational practitioners—not politicians or business managers—take charge of establishing what essential knowledge and skills must accompany a first-year teacher into the classroom.
Further, researchers agree that teachers should be assessed on multiple measures, and edTPA is showing tremendous promise as one of these measures. Candidates who have completed edTPA report feeling better prepared for the realities of teaching. In addition, they understand the importance of continuous reflection and improvement, and report feeling better prepared for their own state's teacher evaluation systems.
Pearson's role as operational partner
Critics have inaccurately viewed edTPA as some sort of corporate venture, putting money in the pocket of big business for the sake of high-surveillance accountability. Nothing could be further from the truth.
At its heart, edTPA is a professional assessment of practice, designed and implemented at hundreds of colleges of education. To realize our vision of edTPA as a national standard for beginning teacher practice, we needed a partner that could bring operational capacity to bear. We needed significant systemic capacity to score teacher portfolios from across the nation effectively and efficiently. Numerous bids were received from various enterprises to do this work, and we decided that Pearson provided the best package.
Once this partnership was in place, Pearson invested in the development of operational capacity to sustainably score and report on edTPA—thus creating a secure and stable environment to train scorers. Teacher portfolios arrive from colleges and universities that utilize a multitude of platforms to gather student work, and Pearson must export these portfolios to a common format for distribution to a wide scoring network, receive scores back, and distribute results back to the preparation programs. Pearson has nothing to do with developing the scoring rubrics, nor does it contribute substantively to the education-related content of edTPA. In other words, Pearson's role is to handle the logistical matters related to managing the monumental task of implementing a secure and reliable scoring procedure within a national assessment.
Our professional responsibility
Our aim with edTPA is to neither discourage preparation programs from training teachers in new and exciting ways, nor corporatize teacher preparation for the sake of high-stakes accountability. Rather, we aim to increase learning opportunities for the nation's students by setting high and manageable standards for the teachers who will serve them. We have a professional responsibility to participate in a valid measure of our work, and we hope to do so in a climate of collegial critique. I encourage the type of honest and accurate feedback from individuals that will ultimately help us all achieve these goals.