Rick Ayers, a professor of teacher education at the University of San Francisco, reviews the controversy over EdTPA, the Pearson-owned assessment tool for future teachers. In the past, educational professionals decided whether teachers were prepared for their job. Now, in 35 states, teachers must take the Pearson EdTPA to win certification.
The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is the new set of evaluations of teacher candidates that is spreading across the country. Packaged as government-mandated test that assures the quality of teaching, it in fact colonizes the curriculum of teacher education programs and narrows the focus on teaching as pre-determined and top down delivery of lessons.
If you ask advocates about edTPA, they’ll tell you it’s a teacher performance assessment developed through a partnership between Stanford University’s Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). They describe it as being designed “by the profession, for the profession” and “transformative for prospective teachers because [it] requires candidates to actually demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to help all students learn in real classrooms.” And policy makers are listening: as of November 2015, 647 educator preparation programs in 35 states are using edTPA, and it’s required for teacher licensure in 4 states.
Critics, however, tell a radically different story. In articles published in an increasing number of academic journals, blogs, and trade magazines, they question the validity of the assessment, its ideological stance, and its function as yet another tool of privatized, neoliberal reform. Barbara Madeloni, now president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, was an early resistor. After the New York Times published a 2012 article about her students’ refusal to participate in an edTPA pilot, Madeloni lost her job at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Later, she, with Julie Gorlewski of SUNY New Paltz, published a series of critiques under headlines like “Wrong Answer to the Wrong Question” that describe edTPA as reductive and poorly aligned with the goals of social justice education….
Many scholars and activists are especially concerned about the role of Pearson Education, who is the exclusive administrator of edTPA and charges $300 per candidate per submission. $75 of this goes back to a “calibrated scorer”–a teacher or teacher educator who, with just 19-23 hours of computer-based training by Pearson was magically transformed from unqualified to evaluate their own teacher candidates to a national expert in evidence-based assessment. The other $225, presumably, goes to Pearson, SCALE and AACTE, who are surely celebrating their resounding success: 18,463 candidates were required to take edTPA in 2014. At $300 each, that’s $5,538,900. It is true that Pearson offers some vouchers to offset the cost for candidates. But in 2014, there were a whopping 600 vouchers available for the entire state of New York.
I have learned from a high-level official in New York that EdTPA has caused numerous problems. The future teachers are supposed to submit videos that show them teaching but parents are reluctant to give permission to film their children. The pass rates of African-American and Hispanic candidates is disproportionately low.
To many observers, both inside and outside the teacher education profession, EdTPA seems to be just one more piece of the “reform” effort to break the teaching profession and make it easier to turn teaching into a scripted performance.
If anyone wants to defend EdTPA, go for it. I’m all ears.