Researchers Call Teacher Licensing Test “Misleading”

edTPA is back in the news, and that’s never a good thing.

The program evaluates teacher candidates through the use of portfolios, self-analysis and videotaping of classroom teaching. Education Week reports that researchers have concluded the program’s assessment methods are imprecise and “misleading.”

The criticism has to do with edTPA’s manipulation of statistics, but Education Week points out that the assessment’s problems go way beyond math:

“But others take issue with the high-stakes nature of the exam, and argue that it’s forcing colleges of education to teach to the test. Also, teacher-candidates of color tend to score lower on the edTPA than their white peers, and some argue that the exam, which costs $300 to take, is keeping talented teachers out of the profession. And some worry that the tests are vulnerable to cheating.”

Who would create a high-stakes assessment that’s expensive, discriminates against people of color, is vulnerable to cheating, and forces schools to teach to the test?

The answer is an unholy alliance among the pillars of the education establishment and a frequent target of their wrath.

Rolled out in 2009, edTPA was the brainchild of Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE). They partnered with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and the assessment was endorsed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

The edTPA Policy Advisory Board is a who’s who of the education establishment, including high-ranking officials of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

But none of these groups has the capacity to actually gather all the evaluation materials, hire scorers and report the results. So they contracted with Pearson Inc., the testing giant and hated symbol of corporate involvement in education.

Since that time, the supporters of edTPA have spent a great deal of their time defending that decision, and explaining in meticulous detail that Pearson simply scores the tests and has nothing to do with design or development.

The problem with that approach is now apparent. If Pearson isn’t at all involved in the design or decision-making of edTPA, it can’t now be blamed for the system’s failures.

There have been a lot of criticisms of edTPA over the years, but precious few address the one central question that this teacher asked while attending an edTPA regional summit in 2015: