edTPA, the new portfolio assessment required for student-teachers in New York, has come under criticism. One of New York's teachers' unions wants it suspended.
United University Professions, the union that represents faculty at the State University of New York, including those involved in teacher education programs, has called for the immediate suspension of the edTPA teacher certification mandate, the new high-stakes testing requirement for student-teachers that takes effect May 1. The union says the plan’s rollout was rushed and it set student-teachers and the faculty who teach them up for failure.
Stephanie Wood-Garnett, Assistant Commissioner of Teacher and Leader Effectiveness at the office of Higher Education in the New York State Education Department, disagrees. "The test simply serves as a way to allow teacher-candidates to demonstrate their readiness to enter a classroom and become the teacher of record."
The test includes written work and videos of candidates interacting with K-12 students. UUP notes that parental consent needed for videos is a major hurdle for many student-teachers. UUP officials say student-teachers and the faculty who teach them are being set up for failure because the state education department has set a passing score that is expected to result in a failure rate as high as 40 percent.
Wood-Garnett defends edTPA. "By now we have all heard about the fierce competition for jobs in the global marketplace and we also know that too few of our students are graduating with the skills and knowledge they need to successfully compete for those jobs. That's why we're asking with such urgency here in New York State to raise the bar for our students, to lift their level of achievement."
She adds the key to maximizing the success of that effort will require a high standard of excellence form the educators who will teach them. "If we don't continue to improve teacher candidate's preparation for 21st century classrooms, far too many of our high school students will continue to graduate unprepared for college or careers."
The edTPA is being used experimentally in more than 30 states. Currently, New York and Washington are the only two states that have made edTPA a certification requirement. New York's required passing score is higher than Washington's, placing New York out of line with all other states on the edTPA.
Jamie Dangler is the Vice President for Academics at UUP. She notes the implementation of controversial "Common Core" standards in the K through 12 arena is trickling up to college-level teacher education. "The edTPA is certainly separate from Common Core in many ways but I think the connection is that we see the same inappropriate rollout with the edTPA as we saw with the Common Core. So just as the common Core was rushed in without adequate input from teachers in the k through 12 world, the same thing has happened with the edTPA. It was rushed in. Input from our educators at our colleges and universities was not taken seriously at State Ed, and so we have another debacle here."
Dangler says UUP supports positive change and improving standards but teacher-educators and teachers need to be involved in decision-making in a more substantive way than the education department has drawn on them to date.
Besides calling for suspension of the edTPA mandate, UUP wants a legislative hearing to address the situation. The union hopes lawmakers, in turn, will push the state Board of Regents to make state ed drop the testing requirement.