Lori Smith (left) and Heather Hobbs (right), two teacher leaders in the Kingsport City Schools district, participate in a Common Core training session in Kingsport, Tenn.

Teachers participate in a Common Core training session in Kingsport, Tenn.

A new test known as edTPA, meant to better gauge if teachers are prepared for the classroom, is still getting mixed reviews, according to a pair of studies out this month.

While many teacher recruits like aspects of the test, for which they have to submit a portfolio that includes lesson plans, student assessments and videos of their teaching, they aren’t totally sold, according to a new study that surveyed teaching candidates in two states, Washington and New York. The states are the first to use the edTPA to decide which teachers can be certified to teach.

At the same time, another study released this month, which focused on Washington, found that higher edTPA scores correlated with higher student reading scores, although good results on the edTPA didn’t correlate to better math scores for kids.

More states will be using the test soon, and “ultimately,” according to the edTPA website, “the long-term expectation is that institutions of higher education, state education boards and professional standards boards throughout the United States will adopt edTPA as a mandatory requirement for the award of an education degree and/or for teacher licensure.”

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Over half of teachers in a survey by researchers at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education said they thought the exam matched their “conceptions of good teaching.”

A majority thought the test helped them reflect on their teaching practice. But 77 percent said the test was an unfair assessment of their teaching practice and very time-consuming, with a majority disagreeing that it helped them be more organized during their student teaching. (The edTPA is done as teacher recruits are in their student teaching placement.)

Teachers in New York and Washington were divided, sometimes widely, in their responses to edTPA, with Washington teachers generally more positive about their experience.

“It underscores the way the edTPA has been supported and implemented in Washington versus New York,” said Raymond Pecheone, executive director of the Stanford University-based Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity, which developed the test. “Washington took its time phasing in edTPA. We’re finding all across the country that the more lead time put in place prior to making it consequential seems to have an impact on the use and acceptance.”

Researcher Kevin Meuwissen, co-author of the Warner School study, had some words of caution as states consider making the test the main gateway into the teaching profession, saying there could be “problematic consequences that come from using the assessment as a pass/fail screening tool.”

“A lot of the stuff in the edTPA is pretty good,” he said. “The trouble emerges when the assessment is used as a policy tool.”

In earlier interviews and the current survey, Meuwissen said, teachers said “the idea of using the assessment reflectively to improve my teaching gets subsumed by the fact I have to do this, I have to pass, it’s very time-consuming, during my student teaching I’m really concerned about gathering all of the evidence I need for my edTPA, because if I fail it that’s a pretty untenable position.”

“When it’s used as a high stakes gatekeeping tool it has an effect on how candidates determine what it’s for and how to actually complete it,” he added.

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Pecheone said the edTPA was explicitly designed as a licensure exam, although he encourages states to use multiple measures in addition to edTPA scores to decide which teachers to certify, including evaluation data from their teaching program. He also said teaching programs shouldn’t try to “teach to the test.”

“It narrows the curriculum. We definitely do not advocate for that,” he said.

“What we’re asking students to do, I won’t say that it isn’t a significant amount of work, but I believe it’s work on the right stuff,” he added. “What we’re asking students to do is to do what they would do on the job. We’re asking them to plan lessons. Show lessons on videotape. We’re asking them to assess students.”

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

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