A tougher Texas teacher test faces roadblocks to final approval after concerns about its track record were raised.
The more extensive exam would require teaching candidates to prepare a portfolio of their work rather than just take a multiple choice test, which is what’s been in place for about 20 years.
At a Tuesday hearing, the State Board of Education members worried about the price of the new exam, its history in other states and the possibility of creating a state-approved monopoly. Several members acknowledged the need for a new test, but didn’t see edTPA as the best option.
“We all know the [old test] was outdated a couple of decades ago, ”SBOE member Georgina C. Pérez, D-El Paso, said. “We want a better teacher certification exam, then let’s make one.”
Texas has piloted the proposed process – called the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA test – for the last three years. The State Board for Educator Certification voted earlier this year to recommend it replace Texas’ existing assessment.
SBOE members are expected to decide on the exam’s future Friday. If approved, the test would be in place and required for all aspiring teachers as soon as 2023-24.
Advocates say the new test raises standards for would-be educators as the current assessment is out of date as it has been used for the last two decades. The edTPA exam would create a consistent, high-quality level for all incoming educators to meet, said Jean Streepey, who chairs the State Board for Educator Certification.
“We have 123 [teacher preparation] programs across the state, and teacher preparation is inconsistent, ”Streepey said. “We need to give our teacher candidates the best chance of success. Yet, we don’t assess whether they have the basic skills to write and deliver a lesson plan. ”
Critics worry that amid an already challenging teacher shortage, edTPA’s higher testing fee will create a financial obstacle for candidates and be a barrier to diversifying the profession. They also note that five states, including New York, abandoned edTPA after using the tool.
A number of public education advocacy groups – including the Association of Texas Professional Educators, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Raise Your Hand Texas, Intercultural Development Research Association and Texas Association of School Administrators – opposed the change, saying edTPA, used as a final certification exam , will not help teaching candidates grow. The groups also criticized the “significant gap in edTPA pass rates between Black and white candidates,” according to a recent letter they sent to the SBOE.
Some suggested edTPA be incorporated as a required curriculum for teacher prep programs. But TEA staff pointed out potential pitfalls, including that the agency would not be able to regulate the quality of portfolio submissions if the model was included within the programs.
Developed at Stanford University, the edTPA exam requires teacher candidates to prepare a portfolio that “reflects their Texas classrooms and students during their clinical or internship experience,” according to TEA. That includes providing evidence around areas of instruction planning, how to engage students, assessing student learning and, for some, assessing students’ math learning.
SBOE members from both parties expressed a variety of concerns at Tuesday’s meeting.
Texas began piloting edTPA after the State Board of Educator Certification approved a test in 2019. It was offered as an optional assessment in addition to the existing exam – dubbed the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities test.
Member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville, pointed to the cost of the exam as a potential barrier for some candidates.
“Down in the Rio Grande where I live, a few hundred bucks goes a long way,” Cortez said. “People can’t afford a few hundred extra dollars.”
The exam costs almost $ 200 more to take than the current Texas certification assessment, which costs $ 116. TEA worked with the testing vendor to offset the cost and created a voucher program that allows prep programs to embed the cost of the test within their fees, according to an agency document.
Seventeen other states across the country have implemented or are implementing edTPA, according to TEA.
Some members questioned why Texas could not develop its own licensing exam that followed a similar portfolio model, which is a common concept. But Streepey said that after SBEC explored the same idea, officials tasked with looking into it suggested the board would have to choose between the PPR exam and edTPA test for now.
Member Tom Maynard, R-Florence, was troubled by the idea of approving one sole exam, provided by a vendor.
“We are essentially purchasing an off-the-shelf product… and my concern is that we are going to create a monopoly,” he said.
Still, other members questioned whether the effort to raise the standard for a final licensure exam would not be better directed toward raising the quality of educator preparation programs as a whole.
Texas has more than 120 prep programs that range in requirements and format. Teacher candidates can undergo training at four-year universities, two-year colleges, nonprofit organizations or for-profit alternative certification programs that mostly require online training.
The state conducts a five-year rotating review of each program, meaning it may be years before a program experiencing problems gets held accountable. For instance, Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, the state’s largest teacher prep program, which enrolled more than half of Texas ’aspiring teachers in 2021, was flagged for a litany of issues earlier this year.
The edTPA pilot is set to expire on Sept. 1. Forty of Texas’ more than 120 educator preparation programs participated in the third year of the pilot.
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