What's the Plus?
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What's the Plus?

Texas Should Fully Adopt edTPA

By Addison Old

On April 29, Texas’ State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) will take a final vote to replace the state’s current teacher certification test, the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam with edTPA, a portfolio-based performance assessment. I know from experience that edTPA best prepares teachers to be ready on their first day in the classroom which is why I believe that replacing PPR with edTPA is the right move. As a first-year teacher eight years ago, I was nervous about leading my own classroom. But I also felt confident because I knew I had gotten the right preparation. I knew there would be long hours of planning, worrying about my students, and ensuring I was meeting their learning needs. But as my first year of teaching progressed, I also felt confident that I was well prepared to teach math to my 5th graders.

Javier, one of my students, had a difficult time with the content but as the year progressed, I was able to develop strong connections with him. Those connections helped me build trust with Javier while edTPA prepared me to plan engaging lessons, differentiate instruction, and make data-informed decisions that guaranteed growth and eventual achievement for him. At the end of that year, 80 percent of my students scored proficient or above on their state tests. Javier was among them. I felt relieved and excited that I was making an immediate impact on my students and preparing them for the next step in their educational journey.

The effect of edTPA is manifold. Because I’m well trained and know to skillfully teach students, my colleagues can pick up with Javier where I left off. One of the teachers at my school, who had many of my former students in his 6th grade classroom, reflected that he could tell them from others because of how well prepared they were for his class. That made his job easier. Better prepared teachers are better for everyone.

EdTPA assesses teacher candidates on three dimensions of teacher preparation: planning for instruction, instructional delivery, and assessment of student learning. In an effort to improve the quality of new teachers, SBEC began a pilot of edTPA in 2019. After this pilot, this week’s vote would formally begin edTPA’s implementation process. I was lucky enough to train and take edTPA in Tennessee, where this assessment is required for teacher licensure. I’m now rooting for its wide adoption in Texas.

My experiences with edTPA helped me make an immediate impact on my students. There are many factors — including home environment, prior learning, and now the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — that impact student learning and their response to instruction. Consequently, educators, and especially first-year educators, face a number of challenges no matter how much training they have. EdTPA helped me meet these challenges head-on, preparing me to make instructional shifts to better accommodate the learning needs of my students.

As I reflect on my first year in the classroom, I know that edTPA prepared me to make shifts in practice that led to stronger instructional delivery, which helped Javier and my other students master grade-level content. EdTPA prepared me to excel in my teaching career, and that’s why I support its implementation for teacher certification in Texas. Preparing more teachers for success in instruction will mean more Texas students will succeed too.

Addison Old teaches 5th grade self-contained at Casis Elementary School in Austin, Texas. She is a 2021–2022 Teach Plus Texas Senior Policy Fellow.

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