Research from The Educational Forum: edTPA and Illusions of Rigor (Part 2)

Today’s bloggerDover_photo_sm 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.

 

masthead_rev_sm

Research from The Educational Forum: edTPA and Illusions of Rigor (Part 1)

Today’s bloggerDover_photo_sm 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 1: Learning How to Grow

What does it mean to be a good teacher? For most teachers and teacher educators, the answer to that question would include some variation of “it depends.” It depends on our context. It depends on the needs of our students. It depends on the demands of our content area. A good biology teacher might not make a good history teacher; an excellent high school teacher may or may not have the qualities required to teach first grade. Good teachers are able to respond reflexively to a complex constellation of factors. They draw upon their curricular, pedagogical, and professional expertise to identify the best approach for a given teaching moment. They nourish curiosity, evoke engagement, prioritize justice, and challenge themselves and their students to grow within and beyond the classroom.

Do you agree? Or would you have defined it differently? Which of us is right? Why? These are the sorts of conversations that teachers and teacher educators have throughout (and well beyond) the teacher preparation process. We are always asking: What are you doing? Why? Is it working? How do you know? What will you change? Through interactions like these, candidates develop and articulate personally, culturally, and contextually resonant visions of themselves as teachers, and begin the challenging work of developing the skills necessary to enact their vision while responding to the ever-changing demands of their students and profession. It’s not easy: candidates grapple with research, theory, and mentorship, experiment with different curricular and pedagogical strategies, and learn from their successes and mistakes. But it is critical practice for the demands of a career in education. Good teaching is a perpetual act of becoming, and good teachers learn how to grow.

However, changes to teacher preparation are putting processes like these at risk. We are undergoing a seismic shift with uncertain fallout. The newly proposed federal Teacher Preparation Regulations have met widespread critique for (among other things) their “reliance on scientifically discredited processes of test-based accountability and value-added measures for data analysis” and support of privately run “fast-track” teacher licensure ventures. Well-respected universities are creating online-only teacher education programs, where candidates are evaluated exclusively by video. Citing a “teacher shortage” and the “expertise of individuals in business and industry,” the Alabama State Board of Education recently decided to hire part-time classroom teachers who hold neither undergraduate degrees nor teacher licenses. These policies 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. It is a changing world.

These reforms risk damaging the vital process of candidates learning how to grow in their profession. In Part 2 of this series, I will concentrate on the impact of one such reform: high-stakes, privately operated teacher performance assessments, such as the edTPA.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Dover and Dr. Schultz’s article, “Troubling the edTPA: Illusions of Objectivity and Rigor,” 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.

masthead_rev_sm