Member Voices: How edTPA Is Working for Illinois

Editor’s Note: This blog is based on a July 22 article in Teachers College Record (TCR). The full version is available here. The original article was written in response to a previously published TCR piece about edTPA.

We have been immersed in edTPA implementation for several years as the lead administrators for implementation support in Illinois and as scorers and scoring trainers. We have been committed to moving beyond compliance with state policy to using edTPA as a positive support for critical inquiry by faculty into teaching and learning.

When Illinois State University faculty first reviewed edTPA rubrics in 2009, it was clear that the rubrics put student learning at the center of teaching. We also saw an innovation that provided clear, concise, and precise descriptors for key features of effective instruction, suitable for beginning practice. We have continued to engage more deeply with edTPA because of its intrinsic value to help us achieve the practice we want in our educator preparation programs.

Clinical supervisors report to us anecdotally—and in focus groups—that edTPA has made them more inclined to focus on the evidence of candidate performance as the basis of conferencing, rather than on summary judgments of lessons that “went well.” They are discussing aspects of classroom practice that reflect, or fall short of, the teaching we want to see. edTPA has given us the language of research-based characteristics of effective instructional practice to provide focus for supervision and feedback.

Certainly, we also previously cared about these features, but not in the deep and subject-cross-cutting ways that edTPA supports. In short, edTPA augments programs across our campus and reinforces a more coherent discussion of professional expectations.

As we have introduced the use of edTPA into our student teaching practice, our PK-12 cooperating teachers and administrators see converging considerations of effective teaching practice. Together, we are engaging students in learning, using knowledge of students to plan instruction, and implementing assessments that provide actionable insights to guide student learning.

For example, edTPA focuses our attention on the difference between “pop quizzes” that support the teacher’s exercise of disciplinary power and “assessments” that support inquiry into the status of student mastery regarding identified learning objectives.

Contrary to concerns others have raised about external scoring, we see immense value in independent, calibrated affirmation of our candidates’ readiness—or lack thereof—to lead student learning as a way to inform professional judgment. Those who have been deeply involved in implementing the assessment understand that it augments our evaluation of candidates and deepens our understanding of teaching and learning, rather than displacing it.

Ensuring that all teachers are prepared for professional practice requires an assessment based on common standards that are measured independently, objectively, and with strong evidence of reliability and validity. With the increasingly prevalent use of Danielson’s Framework for Teaching as the scaffolding for teacher evaluation, we are excited by the emergence of a coherent set of professional standards for practice that span the career continuum from entry (edTPA) to ongoing development (Danielson’s Framework) to the accomplished practice recognized by National Board Certification.

As teacher educators it is our responsibility to commit to ensuring that all students have access to a highly qualified competent teacher—a civil right that all students and parents deserve and should demand. Thus, we would argue that edTPA is not a high-stakes assessment as much as it is a high-stakes moral and ethical responsibility of the state and its preparation programs to establish and enforce standards for teaching.

Amee Adkins is professor and senior associate dean in the College of Education at Illinois State University. Tracy Spesia is field experience coordinator with the University of St. Francis (IL). John Snakenborg is assistant professor of special education at Dominican University (IL).

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Amee Adkins

Illinois State University

Tracy Spesia

Field Experience Coordinator, College of Education, University of Saint Francis, Joliet, IL

John Snakenborg

Dominican University (IL)