How teacher assessment removal affects Rider

By Shaun Chornobroff

Despite having bipartisan support, in late September, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy made the decision to conditionally veto legislation eliminating the controversial Educational Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), even though he is openly in favor of the exams removal.

The conditional veto is the first step in the removal of the edTPA as a state requirement, but it also is the catalyst of shifting the responsibility of placing an assessment on future educators from the state onto individual schools.

“I wholeheartedly agree that the current edTPA requirement for teaching candidates is counterproductive and should be eliminated, but also believe that other types of performance-based assessments can ensure that teaching candidates are ready to enter the classroom,” Murphy said in a statement announcing his veto of the bill.

The aftermath of Murphy’s Sept. 23 decision has trickled down to Rider, as many in the schools education curriculum that are currently student-teachers and were not expecting the edTPA to still be a requirement, are now scrambling to complete the evaluation required for all future educators in the Garden State.

By the spring of 2024, schools around the state will have to have their own individual assessment for student-teachers, putting Rider’s College of Education in the awkward position of having to prepare for the future in the midst of having to help their students catch up in the present.

“We don’t quite know when edTPA is going away,” said Rider’s Dean of College of Education and Human Services Jason Barr. “… I don’t think we’ll take until 2024, but right now it’s every semester we have to assess. We weren’t sure about this semester, [but] students are doing it. We’re not sure about next semester. We got students coming to us and saying oh, I didn’t think we have to do this’ that now still have to do it. And until Murphy signs the bill and we get some guidance from the Department of Education (DOE), it’s still happening.”

‘It’s so burdensome’

The edTPA has long been a source of criticism for those within the education community due to its intensive workload and very specific requirements.

“There was so much around what [students) needed to do to make [the test] acceptable for Pearson, which is the company that scores it, that students are worried more about the compression of their video than they are about teaching the students in student teaching,” said Barr.

Angela Rizzo describes the edTPA as a “giant mega portfolio.” The senior education major said she expected the program exam to be removed, but now finds herself adapting to a test that is on its way to being obsolete.

“You have to put more focus into actually figuring out what goes where and keeping track of your field than actually doing the exam,” Rizzo said. “It is also so overwhelmingly unnecessary, the amount of things that you have to do for this that you wouldn’t do in your daily teaching.”

Rizzo’s trials are something that administrators within the education department have heard before.

Susan Dougherty, an assistant professor in Rider’s education department explained, “The problem we find with edTPA is it’s so burdensome.

It takes an incredible amount of time. The act of putting together this portfolio has to be very precise and specific and follow all kinds of rules. There’s handbooks and handbooks about the handbooks. It’s just so much; it’s very artificial.”

While Barr said he sees positives in the edTPA; the dean has also seen the toll it can take on his students.

“I think it added an undue level of stress that was not necessary,” Barr said. “… Student teaching
is a great time to try something new, experiment and fail and learn from those failures and make your mistakes. edTPA took away from that experience of being able to be a teacher with another master teacher, and learn and hone your craft.”

What’s Next?

Elizabeth Mitchell may be an outlier when it comes to thoughts on the edTPA. While many are critical of the assessment, the senior elementary education major said although it is stressful, she doesn’t feel rushed by the assessment’s requirements and understands its importance.

“I think in theory, the edTPA itself is a good summative assessment of what it takes to be
a teacher,” explained Mitchell, who is currently student teaching in Hopewell, New Jersey and in the midst of the edTPA. “I think the idea of putting together video plans and reflection papers, and lesson plans that are very detailed and thought out is a very good way to assess teachers. I think where people get a little caught up in getting annoyed with it is the repetitiveness of the assessment.”

Both Barr and Dougherty confirmed that a committee has been formed to look at different options to replace the edTPA. While Rider may develop its own evaluation system, Barr said it is still too early to know what it may look like.

The edTPA costs $300, but Barr said the exam Rider comes up with will be free of charge for students.

“There’s still going to be
an assessment of teacher performance, that’s what is most important,” Barr said. “We’re not doing away [with edTPA] and students are not doing whatever they want within field placement.”

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