NYSUT secured a victory for current members and future teachers after the Board of Regents agreed to remove the controversial student teaching assessment edTPA as a requirement for certification until June 30, 2015.
Future teachers are still required to take edTPA, but if they fail it during this "safety net" period they are not required to retake it. They can attain initial certification by instead passing the longtime certification test known as the Assessment of Teaching Skills — Written.
"This agreement is good news for students in teacher preparation programs who aspire to work in New York classrooms," NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said. "It provides a safety net that allows student-teachers to use the traditional ATS-W test to earn the initial certificate they need to enter the classroom and begin their teaching careers."
The safety net covers student-teachers seeking certification in the coming academic year, and those who already took the edTPA or planned to take it this school year. Most students must pay $300 each time they take the exam, although the State Education Department has secured federal funding to waive the fee for students eligible for Pell Grants.
Education faculty and students complained strongly the test had been introduced too close to deadline to adequately prepare. Working closely with United University Professions and the Professional Staff Congress, NYSUT launched an all-out effort to delay the assessment, pointing to numerous accounts of teacher candidates and the damage edTPA inflicted on the student-teaching experience.
"This is a victory not only for future teachers, but also for our higher education faculty members in teacher preparation programs, who had been forced to add the preparation for edTPA into their curricula," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, who oversees NYSUT Research and Educational Services.
The agreement forged between NYSUT and State Education Commissioner John King Jr. came on the eve of legislative hearings on edTPA.
State Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee, made it clear during a recent hearing that the Legislature might still weigh in on edTPA.
"Be assured this is not the end of our concern," Glick said during the hearing, at which NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta, NYSUT higher education leaders, teacher preparation faculty and SED officials all testified. Legislation is still pending in both houses.
SED will now establish a task force of teacher education experts, including NYSUT members, to examine whether edTPA is a valid assessment. NYSUT, UUP, which represents 35,000 academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York state-operated campuses, and the PSC, which represents 25,000 faculty and staff at the City University of New York, note there is no proof edTPA can even predict a student-teacher's future success.
"The regulatory changes provide the needed time to have meaningful deliberations," Pallotta said at the legislative hearing.
The edTPA — short for Educative Teacher Performance Assessment — was developed at Stanford University to gauge student-teachers' readiness for the classroom. It is being scored by the national testing corporation Pearson.
Requirements for the three-part edTPA include a portfolio built from the student-teaching experience and a videotape of the student- teacher in the classroom.
A resolution adopted during the recent NYSUT Representative Assembly called for eliminating edTPA as a certification requirement.
UUP President Fred Kowal told lawmakers edTPA was "deeply flawed" and said UUP would like campus administrations at SUNY colleges and universities with teacher preparation programs to work more closely with the union to address concerns. "They must be partners, they must be serious partners and they must be willing partners," he said.
Jamie Dangler, UUP vice president for academics who also chairs the UUP Teacher Education Task Force, said the video component of edTPA is fraught with technical problems and its value as an accurate reflection of a student-teacher's classroom skills is questionable, referring to "the staged nature" of videotaping. "Two 10-minute videos cannot approach the instructional value of full-lesson, in-person observations," she said.
PSC First Vice President Steve London agreed, telling legislators: "It is the contention of most teacher educators with whom I have spoken that this [edTPA] is actually a reduction of standards."