Let’s go to the tape

 How the SOE is managing new Teacher Performance Assessment requirements

Pictured are three of the students taking part in a pilot project testing the new edTPA. From left to right, Katharine Hudson, Molly O’Connor and Katie Newhart. (Photo by Kyle Stevens)

The School of Education (SOE) is preparing for a major change in how the work of student teachers is evaluated. The new national method, which goes into effect in 2015, is called edTPA (educative Teacher Performance Assessment).

“The edTPA is designed to answer one simple question: is this teacher candidate ready to teach?” says Angel Hessel, lecturer in the SOE’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The edTPA was created by Stanford University with advice from teacher educators, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

Hessel and Matthew Belskie, information process consultant, were appointed by SOE Dean Carol Colbeck to lead a team exploring questions and issues raised by the new requirements, which go into effect in 2015. An SOE steering committee is working with them, as well as other technical and support staff.

Among the most challenging aspects of the new assessment is the requirement that students submit videotapes as part of their edTPA assessment.

“Students will need to be trained to take video, store it, upload it, and select the portions of the videotaping that best demonstrate their instruction and student learning,” explains Hessel.

Because the edTPA is designed to more clearly show the connection between teaching and student learning, all teacher candidates will be required to submit two taped segments of their classroom instruction, a total of 15 to 20 minutes. Each teacher candidate will cull these segments from a much larger amount of taped material.

Like all the assessment requirements, these video segments will be graded by educators in K-12 and higher education faculty who are trained scorers. They will be independent of both Stanford University and Pearson Education, the giant education-materials company that will be coordinating the submissions from student teachers around the country.

The new edTPA at a glance:

  • Will be required in Wisconsin for licensure and program approval, with a target date for full implementation of 2015-2106 for candidates for initial licensure who complete after Aug. 31, 2015
  • Will replace the SOE’s exit portfolio for initial licensure, but not the mid-point assessment, in which students will need to show developmental growth on standards prior to student teaching
  • All subject-grade specific Assessment Handbooks for student teachers will be organized under four tasks: Planning Instruction and Assessment; Instruction and Engaging Students in Learning; Assessing Student Learning; Analyzing Teaching.
  • In each of these tasks, students must provide an in-depth “commentary” and specific artifacts/evidence

The edTPA requires evidence of teaching competence from student teachers, also known as teacher candidates, drawn from a subject-specific learning segment – three to five lessons from a unit of instruction for one class. In addition to the video clips of instruction, the candidates will include lesson plans, student work samples, analysis of student learning and reflective commentaries as part of their edTPA.

Wisconsin is one 25 states that currently are participating in the Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (TPAC), which includes representatives from state education agencies and more than 90 institutions of higher education.

“In Wisconsin, all the schools of education are mandated to participate, but it’s a matter of scale because of our size,” says Belskie. The SOE is looking at multiple issues and questions, according to Belskie: “For example, storage of these recordings is a huge issue. Does the campus have the capacity to store these now and for years to come? We want to keep these recordings for students’ future use and for use by our faculty in adapting our own programming.”

As part of the school’s preparation, faculty members Hope Longwell-Grice and Alison Ford helped to obtain grants from the alumni Women’s Giving Circle to support five current students who will participate in an edTPA pilot program. The assessments of these pilot team members will be graded and scored, and their experience over two semesters will be invaluable in planning for full implementation of the edTPA in 2015, according to the edTPA planning team.

“Their work will help us address potential glitches in our planning,” says Belskie. “What works, what doesn’t work, and of course, do the students pass? What will we put at the top of our agenda in the next few years?”

Many details need to be worked out for the edTPA’s video requirement. For example: What kind of recording device will work better, iPad or camera? Will the sound quality be adequate? What happens if the recording is accidentally erased or lost? Will parents of school children accept the videotaping consent form that’s been developed by the SOE? Will students pay the $300 fee associated with submitting the various edPTA materials, or will UWM? Will the educators who score the materials be familiar enough with urban school districts such as Milwaukee’s to fairly evaluate the students’ materials?

To help with planning for these issues and others, the Women’s Giving Circle grant is also funding professional development for SOE faculty members, scheduled for April 23. By that date, three of the students in the pilot program are expected to have completed their edPTAs, and they will share their experiences with faculty members.