Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It’s for the children: More blah-blah-blah on edTPA

I received the most depressing email yesterday. Apparently, six deans of education from across New York State sent identical letters to the chairs of the higher education committees of the State Assembly and Senate asking for the withdrawal of proposed legislation to delay implementation of edTPA. “Postponing the implementation of the reform measures has already occurred,” they wrote, and that’s when I went from depressed to irate.

I should have seen it coming. I searched the internet to see how the Regents so-called “safety net” decision would play out in the press. On Twitter, I called out journalists who wrote of the “delay” in their tweets as misrepresenting the decision, since students still have to take the edTPA and pay for it too. I wondered why there was so little coverage of the important hearing in Albany on April 30th and the seven hours of testimony about the problematic issues with edTPA and its hasty implementation in the state. At least my friend Alan Singer wrote about the real political motives at work on his popular HuffPo blog. Meanwhile, I was fielding messages from students who asked if it was true the edTPA was delayed. For comic relief, I noted the round of emails in my inbox trying to clarify the awkward wording of the State Education Department’s announcement of the Regents’ decision that made it seem the alternate test, ATS-W, had to be taken subsequent to the edTPA and passed in the event the candidate did not pass the edTPA. Even though it made no sense that a prior passing score would not count, it took several days before that was officially cleared up. There still are no testing dates up on the state site for the ATS-W as it was considered obsolete, so those who haven’t yet taken it are going to have a hard time figuring out their options. Probably best to pay the $100 to resubmit the low-scoring section of the edTPA anyway. You really can’t make this stuff up.

All of this played out against the backdrop of the end of the semester, when I was celebrating with snacks and shared insights in my last classes and helping my student teachers put the final polish on the resumes and portfolios. I nearly spontaneously combusted with pride as one of my students in a language arts methods course who had a difficult second placement in student teaching with little to no support (or even presence apparently most days) from her cooperating teacher revealed that she chose to read aloud Christopher Paul Curtis’ Bud, Not Buddy novel  to her class. They so loved the book that she bought each student a copy because there wasn’t sufficient time to finish it. Other students shared similar stories of transformations in their thinking and interactions with their students, and as I reflected on how pleased I was to see this impressive evidence of their learning, I couldn’t help but compare that richness to the hollow center of the edTPA, represented on a widely circulated graphic: Student Learning.

The deans’ letter too spoke of how “we owe it to children and youth across our State to ensure their teachers can facilitate their learning and advancement in all subjects.” And what is the holy grail of children’s learning? Test scores, preferably ones that go unreasonably and unrealistically up and up and up. Right answers, picked from a limited selection. My nephew, who is currently preparing for the AP exam in American History, is drowning in horrid test prep and endless factoid memorization, which is unfortunately what many AP courses have become. It’s as far away from the real work of historians as you can get, and it’s making him hate “history” which is breaking my heart. Here’s a practice question that my sister shared as an exemplar of the stupidity on display:

The ideology of the "cult of domesticity" popularized all of the following views EXCEPT:

A) Women were expected to educate their children about "republican" virtues.
B) Women were not supposed to have work outside the home.
C) Women were expected to educate their children on "republican" virtues.
D) Women were the moral and spiritual leaders of the home.
E) Only men were allowed to participate in the world of politics.

And the answer is…drum roll…A. Ha, were you fooled by the distractor, C? English major friends weighed in that the difference was negligible, and pointed out the bias against students for whom English is not the native language.

When can the armies of resistance rise up and shout from the rooftops, “ENOUGH!” Apparently, that day is coming on Saturday, May 17th at 2pm in City Hall Park . Maybe those of you within a reasonable distance will join us. It’s time to make some noise.

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