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New York officials vote to scrap edTPA teacher certification exam

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A Bronx elementary school teacher does a reading lesson. State officials voted to stop requiring the edTPA, a controversial national assessment that prospective teachers in New York must pass to earn their certification.

Alex Zimmerman / Chalkbeat

Prospective teachers in New York state will no longer have to take the controversial edTPA, a national assessment that some have criticized as being a barrier to diversifying and growing the teacher workforce. 

New York’s Board of Regents, the state’s education policymaking body, voted unanimously Tuesday to remove the multi-part exam as a requirement for earning a teaching certificate. The change goes into effect April 27. 

Members of the board did not discuss the matter before approving the change. But several Regents applauded the idea when it was first proposed in December, with New York City-based Regent Kathleen Cashin calling it “a very good move.”

The edTPA, which comes with a $300 fee and is assessed by Pearson, involves multiple parts. Teacher candidates must provide a portfolio of work, video recordings of their classroom instruction, their lesson plans, analyses of their students’ progress, and their reflections from classroom practices. 

The pandemic helped drive the state’s decision to scrap the requirement, and follows reforms in recent years to teacher certification in New York. New Jersey educators have also recently pushed to get rid of the test. 

During the public health crisis, state education officials have allowed teaching candidates to take a written exam in lieu of the edTPA, and teacher prep program leaders embraced the change. That led many of them to ask for the removal of the test altogether, William Murphy, the state education department’s deputy commissioner of higher education, told the Regents in December.

Program leaders reported that their students were more focused on completing edTPA requirements than learning from their student teaching experiences, according to Murphy. It was also challenging for them to manage the multiple components of the exam. 

In lieu of the exam, teacher preparation programs will be required by Sept. 1, 2023, to create their own “multi-measure assessment” that stacks up with New York’s teaching standards. 

Union hails end of test, but questions remain

Critics have long worried that the exam shut out candidates of color from the teaching workforce, which faces a shortage. In 2017, New York officials reported that Black test takers were nearly twice as likely to fail the edTPA compared to their white or Hispanic peers. State officials have declined to share more recent test data.

The state’s teacher union celebrated the change, which has advocated against the test since New York first introduced the exam in 2014. Jolene DiBrango, the union’s executive vice president, said the union has long heard complaints about the exam as overly burdensome and led some candidates to quit teacher preparation programs. 

This is a “critical time” to ax the exam as the state faces a teacher shortage, DiBrango said. Union figures show that enrollment in state teaching programs has decreased by more than half since 2009.

“We have a great deal of respect and trust in our teacher prep programs across New York state,” DiBrango said. “We have seen in this state that one-size-fits-all doesn’t really fit anyone.”

But Dan Goldhaber, a researcher who helped study the effects of the edTPA in Washington state, noted that allowing teacher prep programs to create their own assessments will result in a patchwork of different requirements across the state. So it’s unclear, he said, that such a policy change will result in better qualified teachers. 

“Ultimately, I think that we need to try to judge what is happening in teacher preparation based on the impact that teachers, who are prepared, have on student outcomes,” Goldhaber told Chalkbeat when New York first proposed the change in December. 

It’s up to the state to try to understand whether these requirements “appear to be beneficial to students,” he said.

Goldhaber’s 2016 study found that Hispanic teacher candidates in Washington state were more than three times as likely to fail the exam as white candidates. 

That same study showed mixed evidence of a link between higher edTPA scores and effectiveness in instruction, measured by students’ scores in state reading and math tests. While there was a correlation between higher edTPA scores and student scores in math, there was no such correlation with reading scores.

Reema Amin is a reporter covering New York City schools with a focus on state policy and English language learners. Contact Reema at ramin@chalkbeat.org.