Research Shows Improvements in edTPA Preparation Despite Persistent Challenges

While Understanding of edTPA is Up, Beginning Teachers See Assessment as a Taxing Process
edTPA logoTeaching candidates better understand the edTPA process and what is expected of them after two years of the licensure test’s implementation in New York and Washington States, researchers at the University of Rochester have found. The degrees of support for and preparation of students participating in this high-stakes assessment of teaching have also strengthened. Yet, the latest study reveals that new teachers from both states continue to perceive the edTPA as an unfair and time-consuming requirement for initial certification.
Kevin Meuwissen  photoThe 2015 survey, the second in a series of two examining the implementation of edTPA as a high-stakes assessment for beginning teachers, was funded by the Spencer Foundation and conducted by Professors Kevin Meuwissen, PhD, and Jeffrey Choppin, PhD, both of the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education. Using a Jeff Choppin  photomixed-method research approach, the two-year study has included surveys and interviews with teaching candidates during the first and second cycles of edTPA implementation (2013-14 and 2014-15). Most recently, researchers surveyed nearly 200 undergraduate and graduate students who completed the edTPA assessment at 12 different universities/colleges across both states in 2015.

The research is one of the first attempts to document teaching candidates’ perspectives on and experiences with the use of performance assessments for initial teacher certification and to reveal how teacher candidates and teacher education institutions in New York and Washington are acclimating to the assessment two years into its use as a licensure instrument. In 2013, New York and Washington became the first states to require teacher candidates to pass edTPA in order to be certified to teach.
“As the edTPA is required by a growing number of states, we hope that our findings will inform discussions among policy makers and practitioners about the consequences of using performance assessments to certify teachers and define teaching quality, particularly in places where assessment policies are rapidly implemented,” said Meuwissen. “While some of this year’s results demonstrate progress, in terms of how teaching candidates and teacher education programs have adapted to and used the edTPA as a learning tool, we cannot play down its challenges, which include differences among K-12 schools’ receptiveness to what the edTPA requires of student teachers and a perceived lack of transparency in how candidates’ results are determined.”
In 2015, three-quarters of the students surveyed during the second cycle had a good understanding of the edTPA, were informed early in their teacher education programs about the assessment, and were able to find resources to support its completion, compared to only half of the edTPA test completers surveyed from both states in 2014, during the first cycle of edTPA implementation. Across states, slightly fewer New York candidates (73 percent) had a good understanding of the edTPA than Washington candidates (82 percent). Similarly, slightly fewer New York candidates (50 percent) understood how performance is evaluated than Washington candidates (64 percent).
A majority of students across both states indicated that their institutions of higher education are becoming more adept to helping them understand the edTPA’s components, particularly the planning component, and navigate the preparation and submission process. These findings demonstrate that teacher education programs in both states are providing clearer direction for edTPA completion and more support to help students analyze planning, instruction, and assessment artifacts, in ways that reinforce edTPA performance. More students in Washington found the edTPA to be well aligned with their teacher education programs, with 70 percent reporting that the goals of the edTPA were consistent with the goals of their teacher preparation program, compared to 49 percent of students in New York; and 63 percent of Washington candidates reported that the edTPA was consistent with their conceptions of good teaching, compared to 50 percent of those in New York. These findings, researchers suggest, may be consequences of Washington’s higher cut scores and longer rollout timeline.
While teaching candidates’ understanding of edTPA and the degrees of support from and preparation throughout their teacher education programs were stronger during the second year of edTPA implementation, the high-stakes licensure examination continues to be a taxing process for new teachers. Ninety-six percent of responding candidates reported that the test was time-consuming. Further, 76 percent found the assessment to be an unfair measure of teaching practice. These outcomes, which were consistent with findings from the first cycle of edTPA implementation, could be a result of the test’s constraints on what candidates are permitted to submit for evaluation, researchers explained, or discrepancies among K-12 schools in terms of granting candidates the curricular and instructional autonomy necessary to complete the edTPA process.
The research team also gauged participants’ ideas about their cooperating teachers’ awareness and understanding of the edTPA. A majority of candidates across both states noted that practicing teachers in their field placements were generally uninformed about the edTPA and its use as a certification assessment. In year two, only 25 percent of the respondents indicated that their cooperating teachers were knowledgeable about the edTPA—a five percent increase from the previous year. These findings, researchers concluded, exacerbated difficulties for those students who reported a lack of autonomy. Across states, slightly fewer New York candidates felt that they had control to plan and enact lessons as necessary than Washington candidates.  
edTPA 2015 studyAdditional co-authors of the study include Hairong Shang-Butler, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School, and Kathryn Cloonan, doctoral student at the Warner School. The 2015 study, titled “Teaching Candidates’ Experiences with the edTPA as an Initial Certification Test in New York and Washington States: Survey Results from the Second Year of a Two-Year Study,” was issued by the Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester in May 2016. View the report.
View the report from year one of the study, titled “Teaching Candidates’ Perceptions of and Experiences with Early Implementation of the edTPA Assessment in New York and Washington States.”

Editor’s Note: Kevin Meuwissen, principal investigator, and Jeffrey Choppin, co-principal investigator, are available for interviews to discuss phase one and phase two findings of the two-year study.

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education (www.warner.rochester.edu) offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers an accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform. 

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Tags: edTPA, Jeffrey Choppin, Kevin Meuwissen, research