The edTPA, formerly simply called the TPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), is a comprehensive evaluation system developed by researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education to answer the question “Is a teacher ready for the classroom?” Stanford partnered with Pearson to bring the evaluation system to national scale.
Starting in a number of states in 2014, teacher candidates who wish to enter a classroom must pass this new performance evaluation. Instead of sitting and filling in bubbles on a standardized exam, the edTPA requires demonstration of the pedagogical skills associated with high quality teaching: planning lessons, demonstrating effective presentation skills, and evaluation of student work. While adopting the edTPA is time intensive, and implementation of the system hasn’t happened without problems or issues, programs that are far along in the process have expressed to us that it is worth it, providing a widely accepted, appropriately rigorous means of gauging and promoting pedagogical effectiveness among teacher candidates.
However, what does the adoption of a “board examination” process to enter the classroom mean for organizations such as Teach For America and other alternative licensure programs that have sought to prepare “non-traditional” teacher candidates – those not trained in a school of education – for the classroom?
In those states that implemented the edTPA as the teacher certification exam, it could potentially mean the end of their current alternative models. The question for a long time was, is Teach For America’s five-week summer training program long enough to prepare core members to enter the classroom and be successful (without clearly defining success)? The new question is a variation on the old: is Teach For America’s five-week summer training program long enough to prepare core members to pass the edTPA, including the subject portion of the edTPA that covers what they will teach during their two-year stint as core members?
How could this impact the TFA model, and alternative licensure efforts more generally? A number of ways.
- A larger investment in preparation – this means a bigger opportunity for schools of education to partner with TFA.
- A longer commitment to TFA beyond the current two years before they take over their own classroom.
- Before TFA core members, with their ability to pass standardized tests, could cram for the standardized test used in their respective state. No longer.
What is more likely is that Teach For America, with its policy muscle, could lobby for group exemptions to the certification process. This outcome is precisely what has happened in New York State already; TFA has been granted an exemption, allowing its candidates to receive a two-year temporary reprieve from taking the edTPA – a temporary license – after which they must take and pass the exam in order to continue to teach in a classroom. However, one has to wonder what this would mean for TFA’s perennial problem of retention – although the organization has devoted countless resources to this effort over the years, it still struggles to keep its teachers in the classroom beyond their two-year stint.
TFA and other alternative routes have long helped frame the debate and highlight the need for clearer and consistent standards of success in preparing educators. With the emergence of edTPA as a potential de facto set of nationwide standards, can these organizations deliver on the increasing expectations they helped set?