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Teacher Performance Assessments as a Tool for Teacher Learning, Program Improvement, and Accountability: The Case of edTPA

One feature of the AACTE Annual Meeting will be panel discussion about the uses of edTPA, for accountability, support for teacher learning, and program improvement.  The session is scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, from 4:00 – 5:15 pm EST.

Some teacher educators see edTPA as a valuable tool, but other have concerns. Recent research has described its weaknesses as a criterion for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers.  This session is intended to help teacher educators and policy makers appreciate the variety of ways edTPA is being conceptualized and implemented, with the associated variation in positive and negative consequences.

Cap Peck sets the stage for our session by reminding us of John Goodlad’s comprehensive study of 29 teacher education programs, where he found shared a set of organizational problems that severely inhibited program capacity for learning and improvement. These included weak connections between course work and fieldwork, weak supports for collaboration, and asymmetries of power between faculty and other program members. The edTPA offers an opportunity for teacher educators to develop a shared language of practice that can help them learn more effectively from both planned and naturally occurring variations in practice and policy.

Drew Gitomer draws on his recent paper in AERJ, where he argues that, although edTPA is a high-stakes licensure assessment for prospective teachers in some 20 states, it lacks reliability and precision needed for high stakes decisions about individual teachers. The concerns were so serious he called for a moratorium on using edTPA for teacher licensure. He describes and critiques the lack of response to these concerns by state and professional institutions. Without such institutions providing guardrails to ensure professionally ethical practices, protections for teacher candidates and teacher education institutions themselves are compromised.

Julie Cohen describes edTPA implementation at a large, public university, where she and her colleagues found  enormous variation in teacher educators’ implementation processes, and candidates’ perceptions of those processes, in the same university. Variation in the program contexts—elementary education versus secondary mathematics—and faculty members’ identities and institutional roles were mostly clearly associated with differences in edTPA implementation. Programmatic differences could not be explained by how long a program had used edTPA nor by how many opportunities faculty had to learn about the assessment. She highlights implications for teacher educator buy-in for using edTPA as both an assessment tool and a framework for curricular redesign.

Craig De Voto notes that edTPA is currently being used by one-third of teacher preparation programs across 41 states. Some programs face a state mandate, while others adopted edTPA independently. How programs (including individual stakeholders) are making sense of edTPA as a high-stakes measure of teaching quality is quite varied. His study examines the extent to which different state policy designs and organizational factors are influencing edTPA implementation. He found that edTPA is being viewed and implemented as a tool for inquiry or compliance. This dichotomy illustrates the promises and pitfalls of the edTPA as a summative policy.

Beth Kubitskey speaks about the use of edTPA at Eastern Michigan University. While affordances and disadvantages of edTPA as a high stakes assessment abound, edTPA can provide candidates opportunity to systematically reflect on planning, practice, and student learning. When Michigan decided not to adopt edTPA as a high stakes assessment, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) continued transitioning from the Renaissance Partnership Teacher Work Sample capstone assessment to edTPA (local evaluation). EMU faculty believe edTPA can be educative. Although limited in reliability, with other assessments, it is used to gauge candidates learning while privileging the opportunity to learn.  

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