Thursday, February 9, 2017

Whac-A-Mole



If you feel that the nation is playing political Whac-A-Mole one tweet or headline at a time lately, you’re not alone. Here in New York, those attempting to become teachers have been feeling that way for some time with the policies coming from Albany regarding teacher certification exams. In the latest round, the task force recommendations have been released, but you probably didn’t even know there was an edTPA task force. This sort of important work is buried in the Regents’ meeting minutes:
“Commissioner Elia gave an update on Regent Cashin’s work with the edTPA Task Force. The Task Force is reviewing current regulations and practices related to the edTPA, the literacy requirement, and student teaching requirements.” (from December 2016)

The committee made the following proposals to fix myriad problems (the memo from D’Agati is here):
1.        Convene a standards setting committee to review and potentially recalibrate edTPA score requirements;
            What this means is they may lower the cut score and raise it incrementally (as they are doing in the state of Illinois where a passing score is currently 35. In New York it’s 41).
2.        Establish a multiple measures review process so a teacher candidate who fails the edTPA within a narrow margin may be recommended for certification by program faculty based on other evidence of readiness to teach;
            Apparently highly qualified, award-winning teacher candidates are capable of not passing the edTPA, and institutions have no recourse other than to recommend resubmission to Pearson. This would give some control back to colleges, but it could be murky as to how that would work exactly. Coupled with a lowering of the cut score, even temporarily, there is likely to be political grandstanding on this issue.
3.         Work with teacher educators to review edTPA handbooks of concern, with two possible outcomes:
—    Handbook revision, or
—    SED approval of an alternative performance assessment when a mismatch occurs between the edTPA and professional practices in a particular teacher education specialty area;
            This is about those edTPA exams that are in specialist areas, most notably special education, library science, foreign language, and performing arts. I don’t think they really plan to just revise the handbooks. Teacher educators in these fields want to toss the edTPA and find something more suitable. Despite promises that changes were coming to these edTPAs, it’s been a case of too little too late (or nothing at all).
4.        Review certification exam costs and evaluate pass rate variations in different certification areas and across different student populations, as well as why they occur;
            There is absolutely no data on just how disastrous edTPA has been in terms of discouraging potential teacher candidates from continuing to pursue their goals of becoming  teachers. Everyone I speak to in my circle of teacher educators has multiple examples of people who gave up, in some cases even after finishing student teaching. It’s not just that the edTPA is daunting and hard to complete while meeting all the other demands of program completion. It is also that the costs are prohibitive, and many simply have to return to other kinds of full time employment. Once that happens, they just give up.
5.         Eliminate the Academic Literacy Skills Test, which duplicates other parts of the certification process;
            Hallelujah! I am praying everyone will agree this is the worst test on the planet. Goodbye ALST, you won’t be missed.
6.        Examine the Educating All Students exam for possible content problems and to assess variations in pass rates across certification areas;
            As Professor Devin Thornburg has pointed out, the EAS is riddled with ill-defined problems with no clear right answer. Instead, finding the right response is about identifying language use and assumptions being made in the wording of the question.
7.         Examine statewide discrepancies regarding the length and content of the student teaching experience.
            This is a problem that is not going to go away no matter what the Regents decide. Increasingly, people are moving into full time classroom teaching who are already working in education in various capacities, and it is challenging to figure out how to manage the requirements of student teaching, short of leaving their jobs altogether. That is not financially feasible for most people.

The Regents are meeting on Monday next week. You should temporarily stop calling and tweeting and emailing your senators and representatives, and get in touch with your Regents. Let them know your perspective on these proposed changes. Then, if there are proposed changes in the coming weeks open for public comment, it will be time to really make some noise.
Maybe you’d like to speak your mind on the question posed by Professor Alan Singer on Huffington Post this morning:
             Why keep edTPA at all?
Enrollment in teacher preparation programs statewide is tanking. Oh and there’s this: the Regents also moved to approve in 2017 budget priorities this line item:
Excessive Teacher Turnover Prevention Grant Expansion ----- $4 million

OK, let's go!
Need help with talking points? See UUP press release.

Find your representative.

UPDATE 2-12-17 More details from D'Agati here and here

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