edTPA Data Drive Conversations, Changes at Nazareth College
Educator preparation faculty at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY, like to meet with faculty in other departments to compare notes about how their teacher candidates are doing and how best to support them across study areas.
“That’s just the environment we work in. They are all of our students, as they major in education and an area of the liberal arts and sciences,” explains Kate DaBoll-Lavoie, professor and immediate past chair of the Department of Inclusive Childhood Education at Nazareth. “We want them to succeed. We support our colleagues.”
For the past 2 years, DaBoll-Lavoie and her colleagues have brought to the table new data that have enriched the conversations and helped to focus them on specific needs of students.
As one of dozens of institutions across the nation that piloted edTPA, Nazareth has more than 2 years of data for student edTPA results. Due in part to those data, Nazareth faculty have a good idea where their prospective teachers are doing well and where more can be done to refine their preparation—including working collaboratively with other departments.
While Nazareth teacher candidates do very well on edTPA, data from the assessment have helped the educator preparation program identify specific needs. For example, prospective teachers needed more support to assess mathematics skills of elementary students in different ways and to adjust instruction when the students can’t demonstrate the intended understanding.
Math faculty members would have listened to these concerns before, but the data—along with the evidence from rubrics targeted by edTPA—made the conversations much more concrete. Similarly, DaBoll-Lavoie and her colleagues met with the chair of the English department to discuss the need for teacher candidates to master specific literacy skills in order to effectively use and convey relevant academic language to future PK-12 students.
Nazareth’s data trail begins with a designated score report contact who receives edTPA performance data. Using the edTPA data management tool known as ResultsAnalyzer®, the score report contact can generate self-designed reports organized by candidate demographic characteristics to produce aggregated and disaggregated results. For 2½ years, these data have been compiled in a spreadsheet and broken down by rubric for analysis and sharing.
Aggregate data are reviewed by program directors. Once they review the results, data are shared as appropriate with individual faculty members to affirm student success, support resubmissions if necessary, and revise learning experiences and parallel assessments in specific areas where average scores on individual rubrics do not meet program expectations.
“We try to use the data in real time to help full- and part-time faculty,” said Shanna Jamanis, chair, Department of Inclusive Childhood Education. “We need the data to know we are moving in the right directions.”
The data are also addressed in department meetings, where faculty discuss big-picture themes. For example, Jamanis says that data on how teacher candidates provided feedback to their students revealed a lot of general praise, such as “good job” or “that’s great,” but left room for improvement.
In response, Nazareth undergraduate faculty started modeling feedback in their classrooms that acknowledged good work more specifically. For example, a faculty member might tell a student she did a nice job analyzing a theme, but add that she needs to support the analysis with more academic language and vocabulary.
“We feel we are doing the right things with our candidates overall, but we have been able to identify some rubrics where we were missing things,” said Molly Keogh, director, Undergraduate Inclusive Early Childhood/Childhood Education. “We can find out what we need to do on this topic or task and address it early in our programs.”
The enthusiasm over edTPA data wasn’t necessarily automatic. Nazareth’s Department of Inclusive Childhood Education had overhauled much of its curriculum right before edTPA was introduced. What could have been a massive mismatch turned out to be the opposite. “It turned out that edTPA was wonderfully reinforcing of the changes we made,” Keogh says.
Keogh and her colleagues point to other ways that Nazareth has used data from edTPA to reshape the preparation program with the goal of developing stronger beginning teachers who are ready to teach their students well. “We jump in really quickly. Our goal has been to make changes where they are needed with a focus on the whole process of preparation,” she says.
A significant challenge identified by Jamanis and echoed by her colleagues was the conscious effort needed to keep teaching and learning at the forefront of the student teaching experience. The high-stakes use of edTPA in New York state has the potential to distract teaching candidates. Faculty at Nazareth College have provided scheduled guidance around student teaching to support candidates in prioritizing and balancing the demands of student teaching and edTPA.
Ellen Contopidis, director, Graduate Inclusive Early Childhood/Childhood Education Programs, is pleased to see faculty introducing core teaching and learning skills much sooner, although she concedes that the changes have sometimes been challenging for both instructors and candidates. Overall, she says, “As instructors, we are forced to think about the language and the concepts our candidates use. Classes are much richer now as instructors identify their learning goals and language much more explicitly.”