A Principal’s Perspective: Five Takeaways From Teacher Discussion on edTPA
I want to congratulate the organizers of the recent Mid-Atlantic edTPA Implementation Conference at Towson University (MD) for doing something that should be standard at educator preparation conferences: They included PK-12 partners in the conversation and created a high-profile opportunity for them to tell their stories. To accomplish this goal, the National Education Association worked with conference organizers to set up a panel discussion, inviting teacher candidates and teachers to participate and asking me to facilitate.
The conversation at the conference provided authentic educator perspectives on recent experiences with edTPA. Here are my five top takeaways from the conversation.
edTPA Helps Future Teachers Reflect and Connect With PK-12 Students
The panelists shared that the best component of edTPA was the reflection and how it required them to get to know their students. I know what they mean. I am African American, and my first real teaching job was in a class without a single African American student. We were from the same middle-class background, but I had to make adjustments to connect with them. One thing that helped me was meeting with parents to discover their children’s interests and what I could do to inspire and motivate them. edTPA requires that level of focus and interest in each student, from lesson planning through assessment. Too often when teachers go into a room with students who are different, we teach just content rather than teach the child. While you can’t change the child’s background, you can change how you teach. Student-focused reflection is not revolutionary in educator preparation, though historically it has been a “check-off” and not something discussed between candidates and faculty. But now, with edTPA, it’s very intentional.
edTPA Teaches Real-World Perseverance
While one panelist said that edTPA was no walk in the park, she also stressed that she and her colleagues stuck with it and did their best until they were finished. This lesson gets carried over into their own classrooms, where teachers must stick with their students even when the instruction doesn’t seem to be going well. That’s the other side of this process. It supports an important work ethic. Getting through the rough parts is part of teaching – especially for beginning teachers.
Teacher Candidates Who Complete edTPA Are Ready for the Classroom
As a principal at an inner-city school, I’ve witnessed the practice of teachers who successfully completed edTPA. The panelists confirmed why these teachers generally stand out. One reason is that the teacher evaluations in my district and edTPA are very closely aligned, so it feels seamless for the new teachers to step from an internship into a classroom and be evaluated. But the teachers who go through preparation supported by edTPA also need less professional development. They come to the job understanding teaching and learning. That’s important. I remember a superintendent asking, “Why do we have to spend so much money on professional development of teachers? I’d have thought that our colleges had prepared them.”
Preparation Programs Can Help Candidates by Understanding edTPA
Educator preparation faculty can support good teaching and help their candidates by understanding the edTPA process. They need to look at the assessment and, where it makes sense, provide support, instruction, and alignment to edTPA rubrics. Is this teaching to the test? I don’t think so. It’s like any time we have a learning objective: We align instruction to help candidates meet that objective. For example, panelists said they were capturing themselves on video and analyzing their teaching well before preparing their edTPA portfolios. When I was supervising field experiences at Morgan State University, we asked candidates to review student data and survey students on their interests and then write about how they would approach instruction for these students. This was preparing them to be good teachers and to be ready for edTPA.
These Professional Educators Love What They Do!
I’ve worked with edTPA for 4 years now, and nothing the panelists said was really surprising to me. I am a strong supporter of edTPA because it was the first performance assessment system for preservice educators that captured all the components that our candidates would receive in evaluations as teachers. But the thing I liked best at the conference—and which really made me smile—was that these teachers were really enthusiastic about what they are doing. The first 2 years are really tough. We lose a lot of teachers then. But these educators are really excited. These are teachers who love what they are doing, and that matters to the children they teach.
Evelyn Perry is an elementary school principal in Baltimore, Maryland.