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The EdTPA Assessment Test
By Linda A. Kellner
I have now spent the last seven months working closely with students in two local universities who are completing the edTPA assessment in order to achieve New York State Certification in Education. I have provided workshops, seminars, and support sessions and worked with individual students to clarify some of the prompts and questions in the document they have to complete. Please note, as supervisors we are not permitted to assist students in their writing, or their content. No editing is permitted. So the question begs to be asked... when in our careers have we ever been unable to ask someone else for help? Hasn't teaching always been about collaboration, and building upon each other strengths? Aren't we all lifetime learners?
First, let me say that to ask students who have spent a week or two in the classroom to produce such a document is inconceivable. Think back on your career. What did you know after two weeks of student teaching? I often recall my student teaching experience and my first year of teaching and think to myself that I would like to apologize to my students of yesteryear. I do believe however, that the majority of us, in this same boat, became wonderful, strong and talented teachers who have touched thousands of children in our careers. Now, we are asking student teachers to complete a high-stakes test in the form of a portfolio which can determine their futures, after just teaching students for a few short weeks. There is not enough time for students to wait until later in the experience, as student teachers need to afford themselves the opportunity to retake part of the test if necessary. This can only be done when students have access to the classroom.
The EdTPA assessment consists of three major tasks to complete, if the candidate is planning to be a Secondary Education teacher. Elementary Education student teachers are rewarded with an extra, 4th task! Students are required to not only write about the lessons they are teaching, they must submit 3-5 lesson plans, assessments to go with each lesson, instructional materials to go with each lesson, they must analyze the lessons, they must submit 1 to 2 videos -unedited-15 to 20 minutes in total working with the whole class and with small groups after which they analyze their teaching; they must cite educational theory and explain how they used theory in planning instruction and assessment. They must analyze assessment via three focus students who represent the entire class. They must analyze the results of the entire class on that assessment. Then they must plan for future instruction based on the results of that instruction. Please note that they are answering questions about language function, syntax, discourse, representations, supports and the cultural, community assets with regard to the content.
If you feel a bit breathless after all of that, imagine our student teachers. They are spending their days teaching for the first time, creating lessons, assessments instructional materials, making their cooperating teachers happy, acclimating to the rigors of this new life style, attending seminars and classes at their colleges and completing what results in a maximum of a 28-pagedocument (36 pages for Elementary Education candidates) plus a compilation of all supporting materials. in total, this portfolio that they will present, will result in a compilation of up to 95 pages, or more for the elementary candidates, including all the ancillary materials they have created.
Do we want student teachers to learn how to teach? Or do we want student teachers to learn how to put together a portfolio that pleases the assessors? Student teachers should be learning the nuances of what it takes to be a successful teacher. They should be focusing on what they need to do well in the classroom, how to relate to students; they should be watching the masters and collaborating so they can learn everything they possibly can about what it takes to be a valuable educator. I have spoken to so many students who have said that this takes away from the student teaching experience that they anticipated having. Ryan Lane, a senior at Molloy College and President of the student government states “The benefits of the student teaching experience are being lost and neglected because of this assessment, not to mention the redundancy of completing this in addition to the EAS and ALST [Educating All Students and Academic Literacy Skills tests].”
Perhaps the edTPA assessment is a document that should be presented for permanent certification. Surely, teachers are much more prepared to answer the rigorous questions and to reflect on their teaching skill level with a little time and experience behind them in the classroom!
Linda A. Kellner is a supervisor to Student Teachers and NYC Teaching Fellows as well as an adjunct professor at two local universities. Prior to supervising approximately 50 students entering the field of Education. She spent 25 years in public education as a teacher, workshop facilitator, department supervisor and assistant principal for 10 of those years. She was also named NYS Assistant Principal of the year in 2006.