Tennessee could drop major test for many teacher candidates
Amid concerns about teacher shortages, Tennessee is considering lowering the requirements for some non-traditional applicants to earn their teacher’s license, despite fears the change could hurt teacher quality.
In the first of two votes on a controversial proposal, the State Board of Education on Friday approved dropping the EdTPA, a licensing test currently required for about 900 “employee-embedded” candidates, who make up about a third of the state’s teacher pipeline.
This pathway allows individuals with a non-teaching bachelor’s degree to work as teachers while simultaneously pursuing licensure by taking graduate-level courses through partnerships between their school districts and training programs. approved teachers.
The proposal to drop the edTPA, which would go into effect next September, is among many ways Tennessee is trying to increase its teacher pool after seeing a gradual decline in the number of aspiring educators graduating from more than 40 state teacher training programs.
However, state and national data suggests that the current shortages are limited to certain districts, schools, grades and subjects, and not a generalized problem. Some higher education leaders question the rush to revamp the rules with statewide enforcement.
In their preliminary vote, board members voted unanimously to remove the EdTPA requirement for job-integrated applicants. But they stressed they wanted more feedback from teacher preparation programs before their final vote scheduled for February.
“There is a fear of lowering the quality, of lowering the bar. And there are fears of not having enough people to fill the classrooms. So we’re trying to deal with those two fears that are real,” Williamson County Board Member Nate Morrow said ahead of the vote.
EdTPA has been used since 2013 by many teacher education programs, including some of the largest at the University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. In 2019, licensure became a statewide requirement as the state set new goals for training new teachers.
The assessment measures teaching skills and was developed by researchers at the Stanford Center for Assessment Learning and Equity. It requires applicants to submit a portfolio of material for review, including a series of lesson plans, a video of themselves teaching, and a written analysis of their teaching practices.
Teacher preparation officials disagree on whether to remove EdTPA as an in-job requirement for licensure. Critics call the portfolio stressful and unnecessary time-consuming, while proponents say it’s a valuable way to measure teaching readiness.
“A year ago, we were expected to have the highest edTPA scores in the country. So what has changed during this time that we no longer need edTPA at all? asked Bill Estes, dean of education at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, in an interview with Chalkbeat.
Without more data and deeper analysis, Estes said, it would be a “step backwards” for Tennessee to have different standards and requirements for its different licensing pathways.
“There are (districts) and subjects that need more teachers, but not in all areas. This is a comprehensive policy that I believe will weaken the quality of teachers we have in Tennessee,” he said.
Claude Pressnell, president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, said there was no consensus within his group on whether to abandon the edTPA. The biggest concern, he said, is any change that treats teacher candidates differently by saying one group has to pass it and the other doesn’t.
“Our members want to maintain a level playing field when it comes to the requirements of all educational preparation programs,” Pressnell told Chalkbeat.
At Friday’s meeting, Sara Morrison, the council’s executive director, said the proposal was a starting point for discussing ways to eliminate duplication and streamline requirements for the state’s different pathways to obtaining license to practice. EdTPA deserves consideration, she added.
“For job-embedded candidates, since they are assessed (by school leaders), they have an assigned mentor, they receive a lot of the same reflective practice and feedback that is part of the edTPA, it seemed redundant to also do the EdTPA when they are also homeroom teachers,” Morrison said.
Darrell Cobbins, who represents Memphis on the board, said he has many questions about how to ensure teacher quality without preventing candidates from entering the profession. But for now, he said, many school leaders seem most worried about the latter.
“There’s a recurring theme around teacher shortages, teacher retention, career advancement,” Cobbins said. “There seems to be a plea from district leaders, from teachers themselves, that we use some avenues of flexibility and creative thinking about how we help districts meet their challenges.”
Marta Aldrich is senior correspondent and covers the Chalkbeat Tennessee State House. Contact her at [email protected]