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Implementation Conference Reflects Growth, Experience of edTPA Community

The third annual edTPA National Implementation Conference, held last month in Los Angeles, drew nearly 400 educators and policy leaders from 28 states and more than 100 universities.

Convened at the University of California Los Angeles to accommodate record attendance, this year’s conference featured 32 plenary and breakout sessions, including a panel on how to promote and sustain partnerships between teacher preparation programs and cooperating PK-12 schools.

“The breadth and depth of this year’s presentations is a real testament to the growing number of inquiry-minded educators who work with and are committed to edTPA as a tool to support candidates and renew programs,” said Nicole Merino from the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity, the organizer of this year’s conference. “We tried to create a program that was right for edTPA veterans and newcomers and reflected the system of support we hope to provide.”

Conference sessions built on the theme of “Implementation For and As Learning.” They covered issues ranging from academic language and supporting candidates through the edTPA process to legal issues around performance-based assessment and fostering conversation across faculty members.

Conference presentations and other materials will be available soon on the edTPA web site.

Lorrie Shepard, dean and distinguished professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education, kicked off the event with a plenary talk underscoring the importance of ongoing research to study and support the validity of teacher performance assessments in general, and edTPA in particular.

She cautioned that as preparation programs get results from edTPA and see where candidates are not doing well, the response from faculty should be to “provide earlier practice that is enriching to the teaching and not preparation for the test.”

“Legitimate practice elevates practice. Illegitimate practice is when you get better for a test, but not for the bigger job,” Shepard added. “Legitimate practice can turn into corruption if not in the service of underlying teaching skills and ability.”

Later that day, Anne Marie Fenton from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission joined representatives from four Georgia preparation programs to share the state’s incremental journey to using edTPA as a statewide licensure requirement in 2015-16.

The panelists noted that Georgia has hosted a statewide edTPA summit and has a policy advisory board to guide edTPA development. Equally crucial are the state’s edTPA regional consultants, who support 63 teacher preparation providers across the state, identifying their needs, sharing best practices, and making sure they have the right resources.

Saturday featured an opening plenary presentation on “next-generation legal issues” around implementation of performance assessments by Diana Pullin of the Lynch School of Education at Boston College (MA). Drawing from her vast experience on this theme, Pullin noted that setting clear goals and establishing a well-grounded theory of action is important to the legal defensibility of federal and state assessment policies. Pullin urged states and federal policy makers to ask themselves, “What are your policy goals?” and “What is your theory of action for meeting those goals?” (Click here to read Pullin’s recent white paper addressing legal issues in the use of educator performance assessments as evidence for initial state licensure and for program approval and accountability in educator preparation programs.)

The day’s other sessions included a panel with PK-12 principals and teachers reflecting on the importance of strong relationships and clear expectations among preparation programs, candidates, and cooperating schools and teachers.

“There needs to be a triangle of voices present throughout the candidates’ student-teaching experience. It is not enough for the supervisor and cooperating teacher to discuss with the teacher candidate standing on the side,” said Marcey Wennlund, a third- and fourth-grade teacher from Illinois. “Having all three voices present at discussions allows for every person to be on the same page and understand expectations and timelines.”

Faculty from the University of Hawaii at Manoa helped close the day with a session reflecting on what they learned from difficult early experiences with edTPA, ultimately helping to create a statewide system to support programs, candidates, and cooperating schools as Hawaii moves toward a statewide requirement for performance assessment by July 2016.

Among the structural changes these faculty made were increased staff meetings specifically to share edTPA information, promotion of “total faculty participation and engagement” in edTPA implementation, and more training for faculty, field supervisors, candidate mentors, and team leaders.

“When we started, two faculty members were responsible for implementing edTPA across Hawaii,” said Sara Cook, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “It’s gotten much easier now.”

For the latest updates related to edTPA, visit http://edtpa.aacte.org.

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Omar Davis

Manager of Member Engagement, AACTE