Wednesday, April 23, 2014

More on edTPA: “Building the plane as we fly it”

I’m not sure if this is the first time someone referred to the process of developing a Teacher Performance Assessment for student teachers as “building the plane as we fly it” but there is a Powerpoint slide from a May 30, 2012 presentation by Illinois State University Associate Dean Amee Adkins with a picture of a plane and those words on the slide. Since then the analogy seems to have entered into the edTPA world, and at least here in New York, it’s looking as though the plane will be making a crash landing. I think part of the problem is not just the rush to implementation, but an inherent contradiction. Is edTPA a “test” you either pass or you don’t, or is it a “process” with integrity, a meaningful way to capture a teacher’s knowledge and skills?  A test with a cut score is about a competition, with strict rules and regulations, winners and losers. A process that aims for an authentic way to capture what real teachers do means there must be some degree of dialogue, collaboration, sharing of ideas and resources.  

The reason I am writing about this is I was looking at the online community of the edTPA AACTE website yesterday and found a question about whether peer editing was “allowed” and the answer was that “peers cannot provide feedback on the edTPA a candidate plans to submit.” About a week later someone else posted in the same threaded discussion that at the NYSATE/NYACTE meeting last October in Albany participants were told by SCALE that peer support on the edTPA portfolio was acceptable. This time there was a more explicit explanation that gets right to the heart of the contradiction I am worried about:

“Teaching is a collaborative profession and candidates learn to teach in contexts of support and constant communication with faculty, cooperating teachers and peers. Conversation between candidates, instructors, and peers about their teaching should not be restricted. However, peer editing and feedback that provides direct edits of the candidate’s writing or specific suggestions that provide candidates with alternative answers to edTPA prompts is outside the acceptable support guidelines.” (Fry, 22 Apr 2014)

You see, it’s very hard to have your test and process too. You can make the candidate sign a statement that says: “I am the sole author of the commentaries and other written responses to prompts and other requests for information in this assessment.” Does this mean that no one, not a classmate, a relative, a cooperating teacher, a supervisor or faculty member provided any “specific suggestions” for one of the prompts in the edTPA portfolio commentary templates? How would anyone know if they did?

Besides, part of the way that the edTPA has been sold to the teacher educators who have to help candidates get through the process is to reassure them that candidates will support each other, and will have support from their cooperating teachers. Here are a few examples:

The Making Good Choices document for candidates on p. 8 states:
"While your cooperating teacher must not choose a learning segment for you, his/her input can be useful in guiding you to consider all of the relevant factors in your selection."

St. Olaf College in Minnesota says here:
“In summary, educators and peers providing support to candidates completing the edTPA should take care that it reflects the understanding of the candidate with respect to the teaching and learning during the learning segment documented and is an authentic representation of the candidates’ work.”
They also say: “Before teaching the unit that contains the learning segment, the candidate submits a unit plan to the host teacher and college supervisors.”
And they infer that others will look at the video:
“This video will be seen by the candidates, their college supervisors, their host teachers, and up to two scorers who are trained to score the edTPA.”

In a presentation by Joan Lesh, edTPA Coordinator at the University of Washington, Powerpoint slides refer to “peer sharing” and “collegial discussions to mirror real world collaboration.”

Tennessee Tech University Associate Professor Nancy J. Kolodziej’s Prezi on an edTPA seminar involves descriptions of extensive peer review and feedback.

In a presentation on edTPA lessons learned from faculty at The College at Brockport, SUNY they wrote of “peer review in student teaching seminars” and they write to cooperating teachers in the guidelines on edTPA: “While the edTPA needs to be the work of the candidate, it will be important to provide feedback and suggestions and ask critical questions as the teaching candidate reflects on his/her lessons.”

Washington State University’s edTPA guidelines state: 
“Although you may seek and receive appropriate support from your university supervisors, cooperating/master teachers, university instructors, or peers during this process, the ultimate responsibility for completing this assessment lies with you.”

In an edTPA training session with Beverly Falk, CCNY and Nicole Merino, SCALE on 9/9/13 they wrote:
“There are other ways to support writing as well. University of Washington for example holds a writing “boot camp” during the student teacher experience itself. They take a few days during student teaching time when students are invited to come to campus to complete the writing for edTPA. Faculty are available to give them feedback on their writing. It is not a time for review and edits of candidate work. It’s time dedicated to doing the writing so that students get it done early rather than waiting until the end. Waiting till the end has a detrimental effect on their writing. It can be helpful to involve the University Writing Center as well.”

In a presentation on Ethical Coaching – an edTPA Summit by Kathleen Ofstedal of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, she describes a “Peer Analysis Worksheet” and provides a list of explicit guiding questions that teacher educators can use to coach candidates through the edTPA process but cautions in a footnote: *Do not tell Candidates what to say in their edTPA. Do not edit their writing. Do not intensively coach those who are weak and may not pass. Do not suggest specific changes, instead, ask good questions.

Today there were new guidelines for supporting candidates posted on the edTPA AACTE website. The older version had a table indicating acceptable and unacceptable forms of support. The new one seeks to clarify the differences by providing additional examples of acceptable types of support and those that are unacceptable but stops short of an explicit veto of peer editing. It also states as unacceptable: “Uploading candidate edTPA responses (written responses or videotape entries) on public access social media websites” and there was an additional reminder in my email today about that issue, so I decided to see what’s happening on Twitter with an edTPA search. I don’t think the feel good propaganda of edTPA as authentic learning process is working:

Yo, that edTPA bull*&@+ needs to be cut ASAP
Stressed. Stressed. Stressed. Stressed. Stressed. Stressed. Oh, and stressed. #saveme
edTPA can kiss my butt!
“The edTPA is my favorite!” #SaidNoOneEver
F(*& the edTPA
If I think about the edTPA anymore, my head will LITERALLY explode. Literally, folks, LITERALLY my head will blow up #noonewantstoseethat


  1. The high stakes nature of this new teacher certification exam has completely demoralized the profession of teaching. To have to prepare the edTPA with no guidance or prior examples to look at is unfair to all prospective teachers. To tell college students that have worked hard to complete a teacher certification exam that they have a 40% chance of failing this exam which will prevent them from gaining a teachers license is absurd. The little time that we have had to understand this exam and the fact that our college professors cannot advise us due to the fear of tampering with an examination is unfair. To have to pay an additional $300 on top of $500 for our other four NYS teacher examinations is truly unethical. The stress that this has placed on our supporting teachers has made the student teaching experience rather complex and unmotivational when it should be exciting and eye opening for all teacher candidates. This exam has made the teacher certification process a true agony and a major reason that many prospective teachers will not be getting certified in New York state and will be moving to other states to teach. That is a real shame. We must delay the implementation of edTPA until their is a clear understanding across the state about this test so everyone can perform at their highest level in a fair way. Then I will happily submit it--regardless of price!

  2. There is a bill in the Assembly that will delay implementation until 7/1/15 (Glick edTPA Bill:, although there does not appear to be a bill in the Senate.

    At the April 28 Regents meeting a panel made up of Deans of Schools of Education will comment on edTPA and there will be a discussion about delaying the implementation - Regents Cashin will suggest lowing the cuts scores and raising them over a number of years.

    The previous exams had 98% pass rates.

    One point of view is that successfully completing a college program be suffucient. Lingering over colleges is that teacher APPR scores can be traced back to colleges - and the state is considering using these scores to assess education programs and if the APPR scores fail to increase to remove the colleges accreditation can be removed. also, the scores will be made public.

    Some states are calling for the abolition of teacher certification altogether and allowing school districts to hire whomever and some school districts have argued that they should be given the responsbility to train teachers.

    In the world of unintended consequences the result of beating back edTPA could result in the end of teacher certification ... and schools of education.

    A core issue: to what extent should colleges be responsible for the "success" of their graduates and how would you measure success?

    1. I guess a large part of my concern regarding these assessments (edTPA, APPR, etc.) is that they do not take into account the overarching broken system. An industrial model of education, indeed, practiced in antiquated broken structures with dwindling public financial supports. Of course we want to expect the most from our students and teachers. But it's just tinkering if it doesn't take into account these larger structural issues - including, for example, the impacts of low salaries and poverty on the teaching and learning experience.

      I'd like to see a real discussion that takes these other factors into account. But it seems we live in a time where politically, this is not possible. It's very disappointing.