Teacher education programs nationwide anticipate a smooth transition to edTPA, a new performance assessment for initial teacher certification that gauges beginning teachers' skills and readiness to lead a classroom. Yet, the edTPA process in 2014 posed challenges for many teacher candidates in New York and Washington -- the first two states to require successful edTPA completion for teacher certification. According to a recent study funded by the Spencer Foundation, candidates in both states, particularly in New York, felt unprepared during the first year of edTPA implementation.
While teacher education graduates met the criteria and demonstrated high pass rates on edTPA last year (an average of 81 percent in New York and 98 percent in Washington), researchers at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education found that many teacher candidates did not necessarily understand how the edTPA process works and what is expected of them.
The study, conducted by Warner School Professors Kevin Meuwissen and Jeffrey Choppin, represents one of the first attempts to document teaching candidates' perspectives of and experiences with edTPA. Only half of the edTPA test completers surveyed had a good understanding of the assessment, its criteria, and its aims during its initial year of high-stakes use in these two states. In all, only 47 percent reported a good understanding of edTPA in New York, while 65 percent reported a good understanding in Washington. This difference may in part be explained by the lengthier rollout process in Washington State compared to New York State. Similarly, one-third of the teacher candidates indicated on open-ended questions that they would have benefitted from clearer interpretations of edTPA's prompts and rubrics and a stronger sense of the assessment's intended outcomes.
More than half of the candidates surveyed knew where to find resources to support their efforts, though the distinction between New York, approximately 53 percent, and Washington, approximately 80 percent, was substantial. Similarly, only 39 percent reported that they were informed about the edTPA early in their teacher education programs. Students in New York were less familiar with the assessment, with 32 percent reporting that they had early knowledge of the assessments compared to 65 percent of students in Washington.
These findings, the researchers concluded, suggest that teacher candidates in both states, though slightly higher in New York than Washington, submitted their edTPA portfolios feeling as though they did not fully understand what they were being asked to do.
The Rochester researchers surveyed more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students who completed the edTPA assessment at 10 different universities/colleges across both states. The study examined teaching candidates' perceptions of and preparation for the edTPA through their teacher education programs and student teaching placements, with a focus on candidates' knowledge of edTPA; perceptions of edTPA's position in the teacher education programs; viewpoints about the assessment's fairness, credibility, and process of completion; and experiences with constructing and submitting edTPA portfolios.
Developed by Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the edTPA assessment aims to improve student outcomes by quantifying the success of teacher preparation programs. The edTPA centerpiece is a portfolio submitted by teacher candidates that addresses planning, instruction, assessment, and includes lesson plans, student work samples, videos of candidates teaching, teacher feedback, and commentaries explaining and contextualizing their submissions.
New York and Washington States took two different pathways to implementing the edTPA, as well as setting cut scores and different sanction systems, researchers explained. There is a distinction in how prepared candidates were in both states and how effective their teacher education programs were in supporting them because of this. Of the fifteen states in the development and implementation phases of edTPA, New York was the only one with a timeline of fewer than five years from introduction to consequential use. New York has also adopted higher cut scores of 41 at the secondary level and 49 at the elementary level than Washington's cut score of 35 for most licensure areas.
"Many of the candidates' concerns about edTPA were not necessarily linked to components of the assessment, but rather the rapid implementation process, which created stress and confusion," said Meuwissen. "In New York especially, the concerns of the candidates participating in the study also reflected some of the antagonism between the state education department and their teacher education institutions. It is important that relationships are strengthened across different levels of policy and practice in order to make this beneficial for students preparing for successful teaching careers."
The researchers also suggest that states using edTPA for certification consider a rollout model that looks more like Washington's than New York's in order to help strengthen these networks and foster an understanding of edTPA before it becomes high-stakes.
The report from the first phase of the study, titled "Teaching Candidates' Perceptions of and Experiences with Early Implementation of the edTPA Assessment in New York and Washington States," was issued by the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester in March 2015. To view the report, visit: http://www.warner.rochester.edu/files/research/files/edTPAreport.pdf. Researchers will begin collecting data for phase two of the study, which will focus on the second year of edTPA implementation, this May.
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