Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#edTPA: Another high stakes disaster planned for Wisconsin's future teachers

Dear Elected Officials,

I know you are extremely busy courting campaign donors—especially with the election just weeks away.  However, I wanted to alert you to an issue that will greatly affect the future of teaching in Wisconsin and thought some of you might want to have a heads up and start thinking about how you might address this issue—really!

My sense, along with quite a few of my teacher education colleagues across the state, is that most of you assume implementing the edTPA—another accountability gate imposed on the teacher education process—will provide the state with better teachers.  Even DPI leadership seems incapable of understanding the disaster that will accompany this gate (edTPA) upon full implementation.

What seems like simple accountability is actually going to result in creating a population of teacher education students unable to get a teaching license at the end of their education—after having passed through multiple gates and accountability measures.  

In other words the current implementation model for edTPA will falsely deny teacher education students a teaching license.  This will occur after years of success in teacher education programs and passing through multiple accountability gates set in place by the state and institutions of higher education.  

We are literally going to have teacher education students that will have 4.0s and superior recommendations that testify to their abilities NOT able to get a teaching license.  Why Because the edTPA is set up as a high stakes test in Wisconsin.  This is a guarantee that a sample (15 - 35 %) of teacher education students will fail the edTPA simply based on setting an arbitrary cut score.

There is no reason (both empirically from a research perspective and from an accountability application) to set a cut score for the edTPA.  The edTPA is an experimental “performance” assessment that was never designed to be used as a high stakes exam.  The edTPA should NEVER be used to deny teacher education students access to the profession. The best use of the edTPA would be to provide data for teacher education program assessment.  Also, the data might (and that is a huge might) be helpful when analyzing teaching behavior and how purposive reflection MIGHT help teacher candidates become more powerful in the classroom.

I am also writing to you to help you get the word out that when this policy is implemented (as currently planned), hundred’s of teacher education students that will have paid full tuition for a college degree will be denied access to the profession of teaching.  

Who will these students be?  A large body of research exists that demonstrates how high stakes tests are racially and culturally biased.   Therefore the probability that these same students will experience the most difficulty is high.  This is seriously problematic considering these are the exact students that we want in today’s classrooms.  

The edTPA (used as a high stakes test) will be a disaster and do nothing but cause harm and set in motion an outcry from teacher education students (and their parents) who have proven over 4 or more years to be potentially powerful teachers.

Say Hi to your campaign donors for me.  I’ll be here after the election and more than willing to have a conversation about the issue presented in the above paragraphs. In the meantime I will continue to help potential teacher education candidates understand how politics and special interests—not research—drive education policy in the state of Wisconsin.

Kind Regards,



  1. Thanks for this. The idea that young men and women can complete every single requirement of teacher preparation and still be denied a license is mind-boggling. At a time when we're already hemorrhaging young teachers, how could it possibly help to convince people that investing in a teacher education is a crapshoot, because after you complete it, you could be denied a license. How how how does this convince more good people to enter the field.

    Of course, if we further manufacture a teacher shortage, I guess we'll just have to employ more TFA temps and other under-trained short-term placeholders. It will keep labor costs down and teaching staffs more malleable, but I guess that's a sacrifice the reformsters are willing to make.

  2. Thanks, Tim, for this blog. When I raised objections to this four years ago and tried to get colleagues across the System to organize against the edTPA, my dean told me not to make waves. It's great to realize that some ed leaders are not of the same mindset.

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