Linda A. Kellner
Retired Building Administrator
Field supervisor and edTPA Specialist

For the past several years there has been a safety net (the ATS-W) for the edTPA assessment required by every teacher candidate for teacher certification in New York State. Students can become certified to teach if they submit and fail the edTPA exam and subsequently pass the ATS-W. I am a former high school administrator, currently teaching in a well respected local college. I am lucky enough to have been providing support sessions to college students since the onset of the exam. This support helps students to better understand and ultimately succeed on the edTPA assessment. No, I do not provide them with answers, nor do I edit, but I do help them to understand what the questions on the assessment are asking of them. At the college where I teach, there is 100% passing rate for the ATS-W. Our passing rate for edTPA is approaching 92%.
I spent 12 years involved in the process of hiring new faculty members. Having originally become certified to teach in the mid 70s, I knew nothing about the exams required, present day, to become a teacher. My concern was that the candidates that interviewed with me were, in fact, certified.
My intent is to share with you what is required on the edTPA assessment by a future teacher and to have you decide for yourself if passing edTPA should be something you would like to see as an accomplishment.
edTPA requires teacher candidates to think, really think, about the lesson segment of 3-5 lessons that they are teaching. Candidates must submit in-depth lesson plans for each lesson and must discuss and respond to prompts about Planning, Instruction, and Assessment at length. For elementary candidates there is also an entire segment on Mathematics. Students must submit ancillary materials and all formal and informal assessments for each lesson. The compilation of materials, including the responses to the prompts, require teacher candidates to submit a portfolio of 75 pages or more. Discussed in the portfolio are the central focus of the segment, what teacher candidates know about their students both academically and with regard to personal, cultural and community assets; how they support students based on what they know about them and how they will assess them. Teachers may talk about utilizing graphic organizers, pair-share work, cooperative learning, incorporating stations, technology, multimedia presentation, video etc. The key here is that the needs of the students are being met. Students are required to discuss the varied learners in their rooms, including students with IEPs, 504s, ENL and gifted learners. They must back up their responses with educational theory which supports the work they are doing in the classroom. It is not uncommon to see them writing about Bloom and Questioning, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs, Tomlinson and Differentiated Instruction or Gardner and Multiple Intelligences, to name a few.
Furthermore, teacher candidates must submit 15-20 minutes worth of video (subject dependent) of him or herself teaching any of these lessons or a combination of these lessons. The video must then be analyzed with regard to respect, rapport, responsiveness and challenging students to engage in learning. Candidates must also discuss the missed teachable moments, what they might have done differently, and how changing aspects of the lesson might have better met the needs of the students. Once again, these concepts are backed up with theory.
Finally, students provide an assessment to students, disaggregate the data and analyze the results. They must choose focus students and discuss how these students fit into the analysis and they must provide examples from students’ papers to show that the students have met the objectives of the segment (or perhaps, have not met the objectives). Candidates must also provide feedback to the three focus students, both glowing and growing feedback. Elementary teacher candidates must analyze a math assessment and re-teach a missed concept to his or her focus students. Ultimately, the teacher candidate must provide the next steps for learning.
Yes, this is indeed difficult for a teacher candidate to do while student teaching. It would be difficult for any beginning teacher to do. But it pushes and stretches the teacher candidate and makes him think, understand students better, be more aware of how to meet individual and diverse needs, analyze test results and start to incorporate what they know about students into teaching and learning. These are the makings of a good teacher.
The 8% of students submitting the edTPA assessment who have not passed, fall into categories. Some do not seek support and will not put in the time to attend the support sessions. Some are unwilling to listen and grow. Still others do not put in the time to read the handbook and understand what is being asked of them; they do not use the resources offered. Do you want these particular candidates employed in your school district?
When I hire a teacher, I want a teacher who puts the time in. I strive to hire a teacher who will use the necessary, available resources. I attempt to hire a teacher who is responsive to constructive criticism. I seek to hire a teacher who will stretch him or herself, and continue to grow. I look to hire a teacher who will do everything to succeed. What I don’t want is a teacher who takes the easy way out.
Next time you interview a candidate, consider asking him or her about edTPA. Perhaps ask the score achieved. A passing score in New York State for a secondary candidate is 41, an average rubric score of 2.73 out of 5. Mastery is a 48, an average of 3.20 out of 5 per rubric dimension. [an article I recently read from the Albany Times Union states that this will lower in January to a passing score of 38] For elementary candidates the passing score is 49 and mastery is 57 because of the added mathematics component. These scores are quite possible to achieve. You may also consider asking about the topic chosen for edTPA and what the candidate discovered during the process. I think, as an administrator, you will be pleased and excited to hear the responses.
edTPA is a valuable assessment tool which can help predict the successes of our future teachers. We want dedicated and hard-working teachers in our classrooms. The edTPA has required teacher candidates to analyze materials, their students, their assessments and themselves. Isn’t that what we want in a candidate who will teach our most precious resource?

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