Today’s blogger is Dr. Alison G. Dover (@AlisonDover1), Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. She writes here in the first of a two-part series to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Dover and Dr. Brian D. Schultz) in The Educational Forum.
Part 2: Narrowing the Definition of “Good Teaching”
In Part 1 of this blog series, I described several examples of policies that reflect a broader context of privatized, profit-driven education reform, in which the rhetoric of rigor, accountability, and choice is being used to systematically destabilize public—and teacher—education. In our recent article in The Educational Forum, coauthor Brian D. Schultz and I examine the impact of one such reform: high-stakes, privately operated teacher performance assessments (TPAs) that shift the responsibility for defining “good teachers” from university-based teacher educators with local, longitudinal, and multifaceted knowledge of candidates and their communities to anonymous, external scorers. Virtually unheard of just 3 years ago, the edTPA (the most widely used TPA nationwide) is now being used to evaluate teacher candidates in 656 educator preparation programs across 36 states. Under edTPA, candidates submit self-curated samples of 3–5 lesson plans, approximately 20 minutes of video, samples of 3 students’ work, and lengthy written narratives to an anonymous online scorer. Scorers—who have been “calibrated” to ensure their numerical scores are standardized according to test developers’ requirements—provide numerical ratings, but no feedback, approximately 1 month later. In states where edTPA is required for licensure, candidates who fail to meet the state-determined cut score are not eligible for a teaching license, regardless of all other evaluations of their readiness.
Our research challenges the nature, structure, and impact of high-stakes TPAs, their scoring, and the growing industry of TPA-related tutoring services. While edTPA’s emphasis on planning, instruction, and assessment may appear to mirror the elements of effective teacher preparation, in practice, its function as a high-stakes assessment undermines its educative value. By design, high-stakes TPAs narrow and standardize the definition of “good teaching,” equate task fidelity with competency, and artificially decontextualize teaching and teacher education. Rather than fostering candidates’ ability to articulate and enact their vision with the support of a team of school- and university-based mentors, TPAs encourage them to adopt an external and reductive construction of effective practice. The system rewards candidates when they teach toward the TPA rubrics, rather than their own conscience.
This carries tremendous risk for our candidates, their future students, and our profession as a whole. What does it mean to be a good teacher? Who should decide? If we are not careful, TPAs will define and delimit this construct on our collective behalf.
KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Dover and Dr. Schultz’s article free with the education community through February 29, 2016. Read the full article here.
Chicago area teachers, preservice teachers, and teacher educators are invited to continue the conversation about edTPA at DePaul University’s Winter Education Issues Forum: Taking a Critical Look at the edTPA. This year’s forum will be held on February 18, 2016, and is free and open to the public.