Ask just about any education major at Illinois State how they feel about standardized testing, and they probably won’t give a very positive response. While the polarizing topic will be under debate for years to come, Standardized testing has a tight grip on the education field today. Much to the dismay of many, it’s likely that this type of testing is here to stay for a while.
Unfortunately, standardized testing to some extent exists at the university level as well. Since grade school, it has been a necessary evil that we have all had to experience. However, education majors will soon be introduced to a whole new type of standardized assessment, one that will determine whether or not they can be a teacher in Illinois.
The Educational Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA, is a new type of assessment that teachers will soon have to take and pass. Essentially, it is an extensive portfolio that includes requiring prospective teachers having to film themselves student teaching. The portfolio is shipped to Pearson, an education company, for evaluation. One cannot be a teacher in the state of Illinois without passing this assessment. It also costs $300 to take.
While it may not be a “test” in the traditional sense, edTPA is built on the same principals of standardized and high stakes testing. This, coupled with other flaws, makes the assessment very questionable. As a result, I believe that the edTPA isn’t the answer to evaluating aspiring teachers.
Perhaps the most important aspect of edTPA is the fifteen minute footage that student-teachers provide of themselves in the classroom. Every classroom is different with various degrees of challenges. Simply put, some classes are more difficult to teach than others. A superior student-teacher may not look as impressive in a difficult classroom than one in an easier classroom.
Since scorers who evaluate these videos are anonymous and not affiliated with the schools, they have no firsthand knowledge about the challenges of these schools. Thus, their perception of what is occurring in these videos is flawed. While student teachers can provide some context in their portfolios, this doesn’t replace the intimate knowledge of a school that, for example, a principal would have.
The other concern I have is the effect it will have on college classrooms. Just like standardized testing in schools where teachers “teach to the test,” I am concerned that college education courses will now be more focused on preparing students for passing the edTPA. Due to the high stakes nature of the test, it is reasonable to assume that preparation for it will soon become a major aspect of education courses. This could replace other more innovative lessons, and would overall decrease the quality of education classes.
Whenever standardized assessments such as edTPA are introduced, an assumption is created that all participants who take the test need to reach the same standard. Thus, it reinforces the idea that everyone must meet the same requirements. In the case of edTPA, I think it could very well create a notion that there is only one way to properly teach. Creativity and uniqueness are important, especially for teachers. To reinforce conformity through a standardized assessment, such as edTPA, could have an adverse effect on future teachers.
Of course, there are many other concerns about edTPA, such as the cost and difficulty. Education majors already have plenty of challenges to deal with, and edTPA represents yet another one. However, it is because of the concerns I have written above that I really have an issue with it. Will it “weed” out some students who probably shouldn’t be teachers? Sure. But it will be at an unnecessary cost. Standardized testing isn’t the answer for children currently in our schools. It also isn’t the answer for future teachers.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.