By Drew Gitomer, Emily Hodge, and Rachel Garver
In June 2022, New Jersey enacted a significant change in how educator preparation programs (EPPs) would assess the quality and readiness of their teacher candidates through performance assessment. We have discussed the evolution of this policy change in blog posts in February, August, and October of last year. In brief, the new law eliminates the use of the edTPA assessment as a mandated component of teacher licensure in New Jersey and, instead, requires each EPP to develop their own performance assessment. Approval and administration of the performance assessment is now left to the EPP, rather than the state Department of Education. EPPs were required to submit their plans to the state this past December; however, the state could not approve or disapprove of the plans as long as the performance assessment meets the definition used in the legislation: “a multi-measure assessment process where candidates demonstrate the pedagogical knowledge and skills identified in the New Jersey Professional Standards for Teachers and their content knowledge and skill in teaching to the New Jersey Learning Standards in the grade band and subject area of a certificate sought.”
What kinds of performance assessments have EPPs developed in light of the removal of the edTPA requirement? How have EPPs responded in the absence of state oversight? Over the last several months, we have interviewed the leadership of 18 EPPs to understand their reactions to this policy change and their plans for moving forward. We are now in the process of analyzing the transcripts from these interviews and will have a full report later this spring. We share some initial insights in this blog entry.
First, the vast majority of institutions, though not all, view the removal of edTPA as a mandated assessment very favorably. They see the policy change as removing a substantial burden on the program and faculty, as well as teacher candidates. Most programs feel that much of the effort spent on preparing for the edTPA was test-specific preparation that was not necessarily a reflection of teaching quality.
Still, many programs consider aspects of the edTPA assessment structure as having value that they want to preserve in their new system. The core ideas of ensuring competence in preparing for instruction, carrying out instruction, and assessing learning have been something integral to all programs prior to, and subsequent to, the edTPA mandate. Some programs see parts of the assessment tasks and rubric language to be very useful. Yet, most believe the writing demands of the edTPA are excessive.
Second, EPPs’ plans for performance assessment vary substantially. Many programs will be using a set of performance tasks that were already in place prior to the edTPA mandate, or they are revising existing assessment practices. Others have created a consortium to develop a common instrument and set of practices across institutions. A very few are continuing to use the edTPA, even as scores are not required by the state.
In almost all cases, the same performance assessment and scoring rules will be applied to all teacher candidates, regardless of the particular license they are pursuing. This represents a significant departure from the edTPA in which assessments varied by licensure area as defined by content (e.g., mathematics, social studies), age range (e.g., elementary, secondary) and student population (e.g., students with disabilities, English as a second language).
One of the challenges in moving from an assessment administered and scored by an external testing company is that EPPs are now responsible for undertaking that work, which is not only time consuming but also potentially requires EPPs to engage in the sensitive task of failing one of their own candidates who has invested a tremendous amount of time and money in their preparation. While some programs have a clear idea for their scoring process and passing criteria, others have not worked out all of the details. The coordination and labor required varies significantly given the different sizes of the EPPs.
We will be checking back in with programs in the spring to see how their plans are unfolding in practice. As with any major policy change, we will be interested in both the intended and unintended outcomes on teacher education in New Jersey.