This article appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of The Classroom Teacher.

Amid vocal opposition from educator preparation programs, and with significant concerns from several board members, the State Board for Educator Certification gave the go-ahead to TEA staff to begin a two-year pilot of a controversial subject-specific pedagogical performance assessment exam for those seeking certification. TEA contracted with Pearson to pilot Stanford’s edTPA test with approximately 26 educator preparation programs in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. 

TEA’s edTPA pilot proposal is part of a larger certification redesign initiative that TEA has recommended for SBEC consideration and adoption. That proposal involves developing new subject-matter tests that a candidate without a requisite number of related college semester hours would have to pass to be admitted to an educator preparation program. The candidate also would have to pass a newly developed content pedagogy test to earn an intern certificate. Before earning full standard certification, the candidate would have to pass a subject-specific pedagogical performance assessment (edTPA). 

Currently, most teacher certification candidates take the relevant content test for the certificate they are seeking, plus an EC-12 Professional Practices and Responsibilities test. However, TEA and others have asserted that the PPR is not an accurate measure of a candidate’s proficiency in subject-specific pedagogical knowledge and skills. Instead, they claim use of edTPA will prompt better and more-targeted preparation of teaching candidates, giving them a better chance of success in the classroom.

The most controversial aspect of the certification redesign initiative has been the proposed use of edTPA as the required performance assessment. Many educator preparation programs expressed a wide variety of concerns about edTPA, including that they already use performance assessments for teaching candidates that are aligned with the state teacher appraisal system, T-TESS. Others expressed concern about the potential financial burden on candidates. The edTPA test is $281, an increase of $165. Still others pointed to decreased teacher production in states using edTPA, and cited edTPA’s heavy emphasis on writing skills and alleged bias against minority candidates.

Since the certification redesign proposal was first presented to SBEC in December, board members expressed reservations about moving forward with the edTPA pilot, asking TEA to continue to meet with stakeholders to address concerns raised by educator preparation programs. Board members also expressed concerns that in undertaking the pilot, TEA was acting upon the foregone conclusion that edTPA would be the assessment adopted by SBEC. Rather, board members suggested that TEA should simultaneously pilot other assessments, including those aligned with T-TESS that are already in use by some programs, or look into the state developing its own assessment. TEA responded that it would take several years to develop a performance assessment for teaching certificate candidates, and with the pilot scheduled to begin in the 2019-20 school year, the timing would not work.

During SBEC’s April meeting, numerous educator preparation programs testified that they would not participate in the pilot, including the state’s largest program, which prepares 33% of new teachers in Texas. This led several board members to question how representative the pilot would be of the state as a whole. Many programs declining to pilot edTPA cited recent changes to the accountability system, which left little time to focus on another initiative. This dynamic of a multitude of changes happening simultaneously also caused some SBEC board members to question whether the edTPA pilot results would accurately reflect the effect of edTPA versus the impact of the other accountability system changes.

TEA staff members assured the board that they would be responsive to their concerns if they allowed the pilot to begin with the 2019-20 school year. While ultimately greenlighting the pilot, some board members urged TEA to allow high-performing educator preparation programs to work on developing an alternative performance assessment that could potentially be considered for use as well.

TEA’s pilot proposal 

TEA’s goal for the two-year pilot is to have approximately 10% of new teachers enrolled in educator preparation programs represented, with one-third from traditional programs and two-thirds from alternative certification programs. According to TEA, this roughly reflects the breakdown of statewide enrollment.

TEA’s plan to help defray the higher cost of edTPA for candidates participating in the pilot includes use of federal Title II funds. However, because Title II funds must flow through a public school district, only candidates who are employed by a district (typically those enrolled in an alternative certification program with an intern certificate), will receive reimbursement from these funds for the $165 increase in the cost of edTPA plus a $250 stipend (funding sufficient for up to 1,800 candidates).

Candidates who are not employed by a district (typically those enrolled in traditional programs who are student teaching in a district), will receive the $165 reimbursement after submission of an edTPA portfolio (funding sufficient for up to 600 candidates).

Candidates enrolled in educator preparation programs participating in the pilot will take the edTPA portfolio in lieu of the current Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam, with completion of the portfolio considered to be passing.  

During the pilot, TEA plans to collect a number of data points, including candidate placement and retention data; principal appraisal of candidate preparation; survey data from candidates, faculty members, and P-12 school districts; edTPA portfolio scores by rubric/program/district; teacher appraisal data (per memoranda of understanding between districts and educator preparation programs); and student achievement/growth data (using data collected for purposes of the state accountability system).

According to TEA, this data will be used to identify and develop best practices on implementation of edTPA and to measure early outcomes for candidates and educator preparation programs completing edTPA. 

Depending on the pilot results, TEA’s tentative plan is to institute edTPA statewide to replace the current PPR in the 2021-22 school year, with completion of edTPA considered to be passing. EdTPA results from 2021-22 will be used to set a cut score required for passing edTPA in the 2022-23 school year.