UR Warner School of Education professors Jeffrey Choppin and Kevin Meuwissen received a grant of nearly $50,000 from the Spencer Foundation for a period of one year to study the effectiveness of the Teaching Performance Assessment (edTPA). The Spencer Foundation is a national organization that awards grants to aid education research.

The study began in the wake of the 2013 passage of the edTPA requirement.

“Our research touches on an important issue in educational research and education policy: that of teaching quality and how to measure and strengthen it,” Meuwissen said. “Jeff [Choppin] and I both have examined the intersections of teachers’ practices with policies designed to regulate those practices.”

Meuwissen said he believes that the Spencer Foundation recognized the timeliness and potential contributions of the study and subsequently chose to award the grant to the Warner School.

Intended to be used, at least partially, as a requirement for teacher certification, the edTPA has been met with both applause and contempt.

“We’ve seen a great deal of speculative rhetoric about edTPA,” Meuwissen said. “Some say it’s a tool for strengthening teacher education, others say it’s a mechanism for dismantling teacher education – but aside from our work, there are no empirical studies on the consequences of edTPA for those most affected by it: beginning teachers.”

Among the study subjects’ criticisms of the edTPA are allegations that its requirements are Procrustean, forcing student teachers to make instructional changes that often do not jibe with the circumstances of their teaching placement and classroom setting. Others felt that the simplicity of the evaluation, a singular numeric score, did not adequately convey information about how the edTPA criteria were applied.

The edTPA is currently a licensure requirement in New York and Washington states. Developed jointly by Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), it chiefly aims to improve student outcomes by quantifying the success of teacher preparation programs and bolstering the “information base guiding improvement of teacher preparation programs.”

The edTPA requires teachers seeking licensure to submit a portfolio of lesson plans, videos of their teaching, student work samples, and commentaries explaining and contextualizing their submissions.

In the spring of 2014, New York granted a second option to those who failed the edTPA. The Written Assessment of Teaching Skills (ATS-W) can be taken instead, but this option will be phased out in 2015.

Washington has no alternative pathway to the edTPA; however, Washington supports a lower cutoff score for passage and took a few years longer to implement the policy. According to Meuwissen, much of the criticism of the edTPA in New York was in response to the short time frame in which it was implemented.

The study’s subjects are not entirely composed of edTPA detractors. “[…] many candidates also felt that the professional competencies targeted by edTPA – for example, fostering a safe and productive learning environment, supporting students with diverse needs, monitoring student learning, and providing productive feedback – align closely with characteristics of effective teaching practice,” Meuwissen said.

The study intends to examine these variations in teachers’ experiences with the edTPA and the implications of the implementation differences between New York and Washington states.

According to Meuwissen, this is a study which the Warner School professors are eminently qualified to lead. Choppin’s and Meuwissen’s previous research has significant overlap in the sphere of public education policy, and Meuwissen testified about the edTPA at a New York State Assembly hearing on teacher certification requirements in May 2014. Meuwissen also credits two Warner School doctoral students, Hairong Shang-Butler and Kathryn Cloonan, with the anticipated success of the study.

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the class of 2017.

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