The State Board for Educator Certification has spent the last several months gathering information to determine the best path forward on replacing the current pedagogy certification exam after the State Board of Education unanimously rejected a SBEC rule that required the use of edTPA, an expensive performance assessment exam.
At its Sept. 30, 2022 meeting, the State Board for Education Certification took up the issue as a discussion item during which TCTA joined with other major statewide education groups and educator preparation programs as a newly formed coalition, the Texas Coalition for Educator Preparation, to present our views on the matter.
SBEC requested TEA staff to bring back draft rule text for its December 2022 meeting incorporating edTPA, and possibly a Texas-based performance assessment that has not yet been developed, as pedagogy certification exams to replace the current Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities exam.
The attempt to replace the current multiple choice PPR exam with edTPA has been ongoing for a number of years, and TCTA has been involved throughout.
Proponents of using edTPA as a certification exam have claimed that the current PPR is not a good measure of “Day 1 readiness” for a classroom teacher given that it is multiple choice and has such a high passage rate. They claim that using a performance assessment (edTPA) in place of the PPR would ensure that teacher candidates could demonstrate “Day 1 readiness” prior to entering the classroom.
Opponents, including TCTA, have pointed out that, since one of the major pathways in our certification system allows for teacher candidates to serve as teacher of record for up to a year on an intern certificate without having to pass the pedagogy certification test, comprising 40% of new teachers, requiring edTPA as the pedagogy certification test would do nothing to ensure that these candidates are “Day 1 ready” prior to entering the classroom.
Instead, it makes more sense to require a performance assessment be done earlier in the process, as a formative assessment, to ensure that candidates can demonstrate key competencies before entering the classroom as teacher of record. In essence, our argument is that using edTPA as a certification exam does not fit well with our certification training system, and that the best way to remedy this is to require a performance assessment like edTPA to be embedded as a part of teacher training programs, earlier in the process, rather than as a consequential certification exam at the end of the process.
Additional reasons that TCTA and others have opposed using edTPA as a certification exam include the increased cost to teacher candidates by an additional $195 at a time when teacher shortages are at crisis levels; concerns about the validity of the test and its appropriateness for teacher certification; evidence of negative effects on teacher production numbers, especially for non-white teachers (Marder & Rhodes, 2018); and adverse effects on student learning.
When first presented with the idea of replacing the PPR with edTPA several years ago, SBEC members had enough concerns that they requested that edTPA be piloted for a number of years before being considered as a required certification exam. During that time, another group of educator preparation programs proposed a different approach to using a performance assessment — their proposal involved using a performance assessment aligned to T-TESS as one of the components of their educator preparation program, rather than as a licensure exam. Both groups moved forward with their pilots, and SBEC received regular updates on the pilots’ progress at their meetings.
Even after three years of piloting, when presented with and giving approval to draft rule text implementing edTPA as a pedagogy certification exam to replace PPR, the SBEC chair at the time and several members asked that steps be taken to develop a T-TESS-aligned performance assessment to be used as a component of an educator preparation program rather than a certification test during the same timeline as the phase-in period for edTPA.
Upon adoption of the rule to replace PPR with edTPA in April 2022, TEA staff presented also SBEC with draft rule text that would set standards for SBEC to identify other performance assessments to be considered as alternatives to edTPA, but only for use as a certification exam, not for use as an educator preparation program requirement, contrary to what had been expressed by some SBEC members and stakeholders. The board voted to adopt the rule replacing PPR with edTPA, with one key board member absent and another voting no.
Since state law requires SBEC rules to go before the elected State Board of Education members prior to being officially adopted, TCTA joined others in testifying at the June 2022 SBOE meeting with concerns about the potential negative impact of adopting edTPA as a certification test.
In listening to the testimony, various SBOE members noted that rarely did an SBEC rule come before them that had this much opposition from so many education groups, and suggested that it caused them to wonder if TEA staff had been diligent enough in working and communicating with stakeholders throughout the process. Additionally, some members expressed concern about creating a situation in which the Pearson-administered edTPA would have a monopoly as the sole available option. Others expressed an interest in pursuing the option advocated by TCTA and others to instead require a performance assessment, like edTPA, as an educator preparation program requirement rather than a certification exam.
In reviewing SBEC rules, the SBOE can allow them to go forward or reject the rule, but cannot modify the rule. In this case, SBOE unanimously rejected the rule, sending it back to SBEC. The June SBOE veto of the SBEC rule is an extremely rare occurrence, and signifies the magnitude of the issue. The SBOE has only exercised its authority to reject SBEC rules a handful of times since SBEC was formed in 1996. In rejecting the SBEC rule, the SBOE members sent a strong message to the State Board for Educator Certification about the need to enforce program standards for all educator preparation programs, and that TEA and SBEC needed to thoroughly explore other possible approaches that would not create all the problems that had been articulated with requiring edTPA as a certification test before sending the SBOE a new rule to review.
Whether the SBOE feels that SBEC has done what it asked remains to be seen. Because of the required steps in the rulemaking process, it will take months before any finally approved SBEC rule is forwarded to the SBOE for review. In the meantime, with the new legislative session beginning in January, it is expected that there will significant activity in the legislative arena on this issue, and TCTA, along with TCEP, will continue to be heavily involved in the process.