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