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Assessment required to graduate in education, could be required for license

Makenzie Nelson is set to graduate in May, but before she can do so, there is one final hurdle she must complete in the spring.

This hurdle is specific to her major, early childhood education.

It’s called the edTPA, or Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, an electronic portfolio required for all education majors at the University.

“I’ve heard that it’s a lot of work,” said Nelson, a senior. “I’m kind of nervous and stressed out.”

Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education partnered to develop the edTPA to evaluate students’ readiness for teaching. It is endorsed by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Western Governors’ Association and nearly all professional subject-matter organizations.

The idea is to provide a three-pronged assessment system aligned with state and national standards.

The test examines the following: planning for instruction and assessment, instructing and engaging students and assessing students’ learning. The tasks require students to answer questions about their experiences with student teaching and to provide data they compiled.

For the last two years, education majors at the University have been required to complete all three tasks to graduate, said Nancy Fordham, associate professor in the School of Teaching and Learning.

“If you’re not willing to do this kind of thinking, then you probably shouldn’t be a teacher,” Fordham said. “As much as they hate it, it’s going to make them think about what they’re doing.”

Another source of the edTPA’s controversy among students is while it’s required to graduate, it’s not required for teaching licensure in Ohio, Fordham said. At least not yet, but that could change as early as next fall, she said.

Ohio adopted the edTPA and recommended it for all universities in the state, all of which are at a different stage of implementation, said Dawn Shinew, director of the School of Teaching and Learning.

“[The University] is kind of in the middle of it,” Shinew said, naming University of Cincinnati and Wright State University as two that are ahead in implementation.

And several states already require it for licensure, including California, Shinew said. There are 29 states, including Ohio, that are considering making the edTPA a license requirement, she said.

A total of 160 teacher preparation programs participate in the edTPA.

“It will help them be more successful not only in their classroom, but in maintaining their licensure down the line,” Shinew said.

But the evaluation is more than just a lot of work; it also comes with a $300 price tag per student.

That money is used to send the portfolios to Pearson, Stanford’s operational partner, for evaluation.

This past spring, University faculty members reviewed the portfolios, but with 500 education students and five hours to review each one, it wasn’t feasible, Fordham said.

Since the University began participating in the edTPA, this is the first year it hasn’t been funded by the state. That $300 is now attached to students’ course fees so students are eligible for financial aid and student loans, Fordham said.

Nelson, though, said she is worried about the financial burden that could be placed on some students.

“I’m lucky to have my parents support me while I’m at college, but I know for a lot of people, that’s extra money … that some people might not have,” she said.

Still, though, Nelson sees the benefit.

“It’s a good way to test to see if you are teacher material,” Nelson said. “It’ll help me to be able to reflect on myself as a teacher.”

Fordham supports the assessment because it “professionalizes” teaching, she said. She encourages students to see the benefits a portfolio like the edTPA could have on resumes. Further, it prepares students for the Ohio Teachers Evaluation System, a similar evaluation that Ohio’s practicing teachers must undergo, she said.

“I think it’s good that there’s some kind of national standard,” she said. “We want to know that they’re capable teachers.”

Shinew echoed that sentiment, adding that school principals are already looking for completion of the edTPA in job interviews.

“[They] are seeing this as a pretty legitimate way to get a read on how effective teachers will be in the classroom,” Shinew said.

The core philosophy, Shinew said, is that just as lawyers are required to complete the state BAR exam and doctors the medical licensing exam, so too must teachers complete the edTPA.

“If you’re a teacher, you also have to demonstrate your professional knowledge,” she said.

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