Engaging in Successful Change: edTPA in New York State

    On July 22, New York Commissioner of Education John King convened a task force to advise the state on its future use of edTPA, a performance assessment system for aspiring teachers that is now required for licensure in New York.

    As the first state to fully implement policy requiring new teachers to pass edTPA for licensure, New York and its PK-12 educators and teacher educators have encountered a variety of operational challenges. Every state that follows New York, as well as our larger professional community, will benefit from New York’s initiative, experience, and solutions.

    Consequential use of edTPA is just one of four assessment innovations rolled out in New York’s ambitious new licensing process. (Other required licensure assessments are the Educating All Students exam, Academic Literacy Skills test, and certificate-specific Content Specialty Tests.) While some of us have expressed concern about the rapid roll-out schedule, it is apparent that many candidates were indeed ready to meet the rigorous new requirements: The initial edTPA pass rate was 84%, which we find impressive and encouraging.

    Equally encouraging has been the responsiveness of both professional and policy leaders to concerns expressed by the unions representing higher education and PK-12 faculty. One such concern related to students who were so advanced in their program that full preparation for edTPA was not feasible. The New York State Board of Regents addressed this concern by making an alternative assessment available (the formerly required Assessment of Teaching Skills) and giving these candidates more time to complete edTPA. Additionally, the Board of Regents established the edTPA Implementation Task Force that met this month to advise and inform consequential use of the assessment going forward.

    AACTE and the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) were invited to attend this first meeting of the task force. As some of the most outspoken critics of edTPA came to the table with some of the state’s most vocal supporters, an abiding truth about successful change strategies was in evidence: Successful efforts to address a controversial issue must engage all those with essential knowledge and all those with an essential interest. Commissioner King had assembled just such a task force, including union leaders from higher education and PK-12 schools, teachers (including two candidates who completed edTPA) and school administrators, and faculty and deans from teacher education providers.

    As we reflect on the experience of this first task force meeting, three points stand out.

    1. Clinical development of new teachers and rigorous performance assessment require real partnerships with schools and school districts. It is through such partnerships that implementation of policy with respect to videotaping and student privacy will be elaborated and honored. These partnerships must also acknowledge and embrace the twin objectives of PK-12 student achievement and novice teacher development.
    2. Communication of all information to all parties is essential. While extensive communications and outreach efforts were made around edTPA within the higher education community (thanks in part to dedication of Race to the Top funds toward that end), additional outreach to PK-12 building administrators and teachers is in order—particularly in light of the extensive concurrent reforms around curriculum, assessment, and teacher evaluation. Supportive communication from the Education Department will help pave the way for stronger partnerships, and the development of partnerships will inform and enhance policy. In addition, although communication to institutions that prepare teachers was extensive, some misperceptions and confusion persist. The task force meeting helpfully clarified some of the emerging questions: What supports can appropriately be provided to teacher candidates, and how can programs frame candidate experiences to prepare them for the assessment while maintaining their distinct foci and commitments?
    3. New York teacher education programs and candidates were ready for edTPA. Despite inevitable confusion surrounding the implementation of a new exam, the bottom line in New York shows that programs are successfully preparing candidates to meet the performance expectations of the profession. One candidate on the task force noted that although the assessment was challenging, it fit with her preparation and allowed her to demonstrate her ability. With an 84% pass rate even in the initial statewide implementation, New York can take pride in the outcomes.

    New York’s edTPA task force will continue to meet quarterly, with subcommittees active in the interim. AACTE and SCALE will continue to participate in the quarterly meetings and will be busy ourselves drafting clarification around questions raised and engaging in ongoing conversation on the issues. As we continue to support the implementation efforts in New York, we will also share the lessons learned in the Empire State with the profession nationally.

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    Sharon Robinson

    President and CEO, AACTE

    Mark LaCelle-Peterson

    Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs, AACTE

    Comments (6)

    • Rodrick Lucero


      The e-mail address listed above Dr. LaCelle-Pederson doesn’t work as it bounces back to the sender. I thought you’d like to be aware.


      • Sasha Gumbar


        The e-mail was corrected. Thank you


    • Ken Lindblom


      As a teacher educator and a member of the Task Force, I also participated in the meeting, but I left with far more questions and significantly less optimism than the authors of this blog post. I agree that the conversation itself was positive and that important issues were aired. But airing problems and addressing them are two different things.

      The biggest problem is the claim that “New York teacher educator programs and candidates were ready for the edTPA.” This is an overstatement based on incomplete numbers. The initial 84% pass rate is based on only the edTPAs that have so far been submitted, which is reputed to be a very low percentage (NY State Ed has not released official numbers yet). Candidates have 18 months to submit their edTPA, and many May 2014 graduates may not yet have submitted because of one or more of the following reasons: they can’t afford the $300 fee; are not confident that they have been given adequate support regarding the complicated edTPA; had videotaping problems (based on consent issues or equipment issues); had uploading problems at the Pearson website; or have decided that NYS certification is too expensive to pursue (and they will seek certification in other states). AACTE, as a professional organization, should wait until the full picture emerges before making sweeping claims of success regarding the edTPA.

      Also, despite the claims in the blog post above, I experienced no clarification of issues that emerged at the meeting. For example, a question was posed about the types of supports that can be ethically provided to teacher candidates (that is, providing candidates with feedback). In response, we were simply directed to an edTPA memo (which has been available for a long time already and does not clarify issues of feedback).

      Again, I found the conversation among colleagues to be valuable, and many of the significant number of problems surrounding edTPA and its implementation in NYS were raised during the three-hour discussion. If the Task Force’s conversation in full is taken seriously, it has the potential to bring positive change to teacher certification policies and procedures in NYS. But the conversation has a long way to go, and there are many changes necessary before any measure of success can be accurately claimed regarding the edTPA or any of the other new, high-stakes certification requirements in NYS. I hope AACTE will continue to encourage sincere, results-oriented dialog while resisting hasty conclusions.


    • Edward Shuster


      An honest look at what is happening on the ground where everything is contextual and effects are consequential and immediate is needed to understand what a misguided change edTPA is for teachers, supervisors, and candidates. At Marist, we were invested in our students’ success, believed in, trusted ,and supported them. So old school. Now we are, by necessity, required to be invested in, trust, believe, and support a one size fits all program with prescriptive rules and protocols. Supervisors and candidates are handmaidens for edTPA/Pearson. It changes everything and devalues what we offer, invalidates our experiences, knowledge, skills, and insights and turns candidates’ student teaching from an enriching clinical experience to preparation for a “gotcha” high stakes test. At Marist, we do everything, and more, required in edTPA in a natural progression; not in a contrived, confusing, compressed time frame, and unnatural format with a slew of procedures and protocols that have nothing to do with candidate teaching skills or student learning.

      The response to the many issues, concerns, and undeniable problems with edTPA has been the “Myth Busters” – pro forma responses to staged questions and answers that repeat old talking points and ignore and dismiss what is really happening on the ground.

      Further and most disturbing is how this is a how edTPA/Pearson is a set up for failure and nourishes the perceptions and myths that whatever it is that needs improvement in education ( real and conjured) is the fault of teachers – period, end of story – and plays into the hands of those interests and groups -political, corporate, and ideological – that are working to erode trust in and destroy public education, malign teachers, and promote specious arguments. First came high stakes, corporate testing of our students to label them and their teachers as failures and now edTPA with projected failure and non-submissions of up to 40%. Obviously, teachers and teacher prep programs must be the cause of educational ailments, real or mythological. Those interests and groups determined to blame teachers and destroy public education can sit on the sidelines and watch the educational community destroy itself. It is disturbing to see those in education who set policy and help shape public opinions reenforce these perceptions. As we all know, once perceptions are set they are difficult to change, and that is what is so insidious about NCLB, Race to the Top, high stakes testing and now edTPA. How much longer will we ignore what is real and true about our schools and education to satisfy other agendas? It is impossible to find solutions and fix things when we do not have the honesty and strength of character to acknowledge the truth.

      Looking at what is true in a broader and related perspective, studies have repeatedly shown student achievement and success are directly related to socio-economic factors, the educational level of the home, and parental/home involvement, whatever form that takes. (As if we need studies to prove this). In all the reform talk, how often are these factors on the table, let alone considered? Compare this to how often the discussion and policy changes are exclusively about teachers. That should be one part of the discussion, but not to the exclusion of more critical issues, which is the current reality. I’m probably dreaming, but it would be nice to see AACTE, SCALE, and other leaders, policy setters, and certification groups push back, raise these issues and change the discussion, rather than continuing to marginalize and scapegoat teachers and teacher ed. programs, which is what edTPA, in effect, does.

      Edward Shuster
      Adjunct/student teacher supervisor, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY


    • yanet bello


      There so much confusion. It is very sad that candidates buy Pearson material to better prepare for the test and regardless how much effort a candidates made, Pearson still fail them. I have a question. If Pearson made the test, made prepare guide. Why the passing rated is so low. It does not make sense at all. Someone must be accountable. it is not right to mess up with candidates future who pay so much money to attend education preparation program just to find out that they can not pass those testes.


    • David Wakefield


      According to my view, some who are reacting to these negative effects of the test and punish approach are including in their attack an initiative specifically designed to push back against it. They target a performance assessment for teachers designed by the profession for the profession – the edTPA – which calls on prospective teachers to demonstrate through performance (not multiple choice tests) that they have professionally-agreed upon skills and knowledge to enter a classroom ready to teach.


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