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How Lunch and edTPA Strengthened an Elementary School’s Partnership With Its Local Educator Preparation Program

The author, assistant principal at Pepperell Elementary School in Lindale, Georgia, is one of several PK-12 educators who presented on their experiences with edTPA and their partnerships with educator preparation providers at last month’s 2016 edTPA National Implementation Conference in Savannah, GA.

Do you want to strengthen relationships between PK-12 administrators and educator preparation faculty? Try going out for lunch.

That’s how the relationship between Pepperell Elementary School, where I’m an assistant principal, and the Shorter University School of Education really took off.

I was at lunch a few years ago with Kristy Brown, who supervises student teaching for Shorter. I told her my staff needed professional development in teaching writing skills to our diverse learners. She said she needed classrooms to host teacher candidates for their clinical experiences.

We agreed on the spot that we would help one another. I would help her place teacher candidates, and Kristy would lead professional development sessions in writing and reading for our staff.

Kristy soon shared that her candidates were going to be taking edTPA, a performance assessment that is required for a Georgia teaching license. The clinical experiences would be more focused on planning lessons tailored to student assets and needs, and some lessons would be video recorded.

That made sense. Georgia recently adopted a teacher assessment that requires administrators to examine how teachers perform in core instructional areas. edTPA is aligned with this review. It meant that our teachers would understand edTPA because they were being similarly evaluated.

I also embraced edTPA because it represents good teaching. Before, teacher candidates only had to pass a content test. Now they have to teach and reflect on and adjust their lessons. This might have happened before, but there’s a more coherent and consistent focus on preparing teacher candidates to enter the work force ready to impact student learning from day one.

The big surprise was how much edTPA could improve the clinical experiences of candidates.

Before, I would get requests from preparation programs asking if we had room for candidates. We’d send out a letter to teachers, asking who wanted a teacher candidate for the semester. As assistant principal, I had little if anything to do with the candidates and only saw their faculty supervisors in passing.

edTPA has changed that. We are much more intentional about how we work with Shorter to place candidates. We only place them with teachers who demonstrate effective teaching. That’s because I know edTPA and our teacher evaluation are aligned. I also want candidates to get a rich, authentic classroom experience with veteran teachers who can support them. 

But I also get to address our needs.

As promised, Kristy helped us address our students’ writing skills. By teaching some of her classes in our school, she could more easily work with candidates and our teachers on student writing and reading comprehension. She also invited our teachers to demonstrate mini-lessons to her candidates.

We constantly look at Kristy’s edTPA data and our own data to see where our candidates need opportunities to practice. To help meet our mutual needs where it made sense, we married the candidates’ lesson planning with our goal to support writing and reading comprehension. There are no hard data to make the connection yet, but we are seeing students’ reading and writing scores rise.

I often present on our work with edTPA and our partnership with Shorter. One of the most common responses is that other PK-12 administrators simply say, “Wow!” They also say they need and wish they had similar partnerships.

They also ask about the time and demands placed on teachers hosting candidates going through edTPA. The truth is, as long as I have the support of the preparation program up front, I’m not concerned. I believe we are doing the right thing. If we continue to partner to mentor our new generation coming up, this is going to work out.

Life is busy. We have to do what matters. Good teaching is what matters!

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Suzie Henderson

Assistant Principal, Pepperell Elementary School