After a 5-hour public hearing and a subsequent committee meeting and vote last week, the State Board of Education voted unanimously (13-0) to reject an SBEC rule that would replace the current pedagogy certification exam with an expensive performance assessment exam, edTPA, starting in 2023-24.
In doing so, 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. The vote also suggested that SBEC should take notice when there is such strong opposition from the major education organizations (including TCTA).
Others expressed concerns that by requiring edTPA for all teacher candidates, TEA was creating a monopoly for a particular testing vendor (Pearson).
Last, the SBOE chair expressed the sentiment that TEA and SBEC had not thoroughly explored other possible approaches that would not create all the problems that had been articulated with requiring edTPA as a certification test, and that it was his hope that they would do so before sending the SBOE a new rule to review.
The rejection of the rule essentially sends SBEC back to square one in determining the best approach forward. TCTA will continue to be involved in this issue and will report to members as developments occur.
At the June State Board of Education meeting, TCTA joined with other major statewide education groups and educator preparation programs to ask the SBOE to reject the proposal.
TCTA’s testimony focused on the fact that, despite claims that edTPA will ensure that teacher candidates can demonstrate their readiness prior to teaching, the majority of teacher candidates would not take edTPA until up to a year after they were already serving as teacher of record in a classroom. Teacher candidates with bachelor’s degrees going through alternative certification programs enter the classroom as teacher of record on an intern certification for a year after completing only 15-30 hours of introductory field experiences and some coursework. Because of the structure of these programs, these teachers do not take their pedagogy certification exams until up to a year after they are already serving as teacher of record on an intern certificate.
Under SBEC’s proposal, these first-year teachers would have to spend hours completing edTPA on top of having to learn everything about running a classroom. TCTA testified that not only does this mean that requiring edTPA as a certification exam will do nothing to ensure the readiness of a majority of teacher candidates prior to teaching, but it would add a significant new burden for these first-year teaching candidates during an incredibly challenging time.
TCTA concluded by stating that, in essence, 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.
The Texas Education Agency has invested a great deal of money and resources in pursuing edTPA as a certification test, including awarding a testing contract to Pearson to administer edTPA. In doing so, TEA, has been adamant that edTPA is the only feasible way forward, claiming that the current PPR test is outdated and its multiple-choice format a weak way of assessing would-be teachers’ readiness to effectively plan, instruct, and assess as a classroom teacher.
When TEA first introduced the idea of using edTPA as a replacement for PPR to the State Board for Educator Certification several years ago, board members were interested, but leery at the same time. At that time, TCTA joined a broad coalition of stakeholders in expressing concerns about using it as a certification test. Concerns included 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.
In acknowledgement of these concerns, SBEC directed TEA staff to develop and implement a pilot of edTPA with volunteers among educator preparation programs. SBEC officially adopted the edTPA pilot in rule in July 2019. In the meantime, 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.
At the end of the third year of piloting edTPA, TEA staff brought a proposed rule to SBEC for approval at its February 2022 meeting, which would replace the PPR with the edTPA exam, starting in the 2023-24 school year. Before taking a vote on a motion to give initial approval to the rule, SBEC Chair John Kelly and other members expressed interest in the alternative approach recommended by those piloting a T-TESS-aligned performance assessment as a component of an educator preparation program rather than as a certification test.
Chair Kelly stated that he was willing to move forward on initially approving the edTPA rule but with the expectation that TEA staff would bring SBEC an alternative that could be developed and piloted during the same timeline as the phase-in period for edTPA. In that context, SBEC voted to approve initially moving forward with edTPA 6-3.
At SBEC’s next meeting, in April 2022, Chair Kelly had retired, several new board members were in place, and a key board member was absent. At that time, TEA staff presented SBEC with the rule to replace PPR with edTPA for final adoption, as well as a discussion item with draft rule text that would set procedures and uniform minimum requirements for SBEC to identify performance-based pedagogy certification examinations for the SBEC to consider adopting as alternatives to edTPA.
Although stakeholders testified that the alternative approach they had been asking for was to use performance assessment as part of the teacher training program, and not as a certification test, the SBEC board voted to finally adopt the rule replacing PPR with edTPA, with one member opposing the move.
State law requires SBEC rules to go before the elected State Board of Education members prior to being officially adopted. The SBOE can either reject or take no action on SBEC rules, but cannot modify them.
Accordingly, TCTA and other stakeholders spent numerous hours communicating with and providing information to SBOE members prior to their June 2022 meeting. In response, the SBOE chair decided that it was prudent to hold a public hearing during the first day of the weeklong meeting to have enough time for stakeholder testimony and board discussion.
After hearing testimony from TCTA and others expressing concerns about the potential negative impact of adopting edTPA as a certification test, numerous board members expressed an interest in having SBEC examine requiring that educator preparation programs use a performance assessment like edTPA as part of their program.
Proponents of edTPA testified with concerns that this approach would not address inconsistencies in effective preparation of teachers between educator preparation programs. Additionally, TEA staff testified that SBEC does not have the authority to require a certain performance standard on an assessment used by educator preparation programs as part of their training programs.
SBOE members then inquired whether educator preparation program compliance with SBEC program requirements could be part of the educator preparation program accountability system. Although this might require a statutory change, it appeared that going in this direction could be the best way forward.
In a separate SBOE subcommittee meeting in which TEA presented the edTPA rule item, SBOE members voiced concerns 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. The subcommittee then voted unanimously (5-0) to reject the SBEC rule and forwarded it to the full SBOE board for a full vote the next day.
In considering the edTPA rule for a final vote, members of the full SBOE board noted the various arguments they had heard from the education community about edTPA that particularly resonated with them, and sent a strong message to SBEC about the need to do a better job of working with stakeholders to find better options than using edTPA as the certification exam.