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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Ready to teach? Unions fight tests, assessments for new teachers

Teachers' unions don't like skills or knowledge tests for teachers -- unless everyone passes. They're too stressful. They're not aligned with what teachers will be doing in the classroom.


So teacher performance assessments were developed to do a better job of measuring readiness for the classroom, reported Stephen Sawchuk in Education Week in 2013. "The edTPA requires teachers to complete a portfolio centered on several successive days’ lessons," he wrote. "Teacher-candidates submit lesson plans and tapes of their teaching, evidence that they assessed their students and tailored the lesson to particular groups, as well as their reflections detailing what next steps to take."


California will dump the TPA, if legislation sponsored by the state teachers' union is enacted. Senate Bill 1263 would end teacher performance assessments and eliminate the requirement that teachers pass an exam proving they know how to teach reading, reports Diana Lambert for EdSource.


If the TPA goes, California will have no measure of teacher readiness, write two members of the state board that credentials teachers. "All other exam requirements for a teaching credential have been modified by the Legislature to allow multiple ways for future teachers to demonstrate basic skills and subject matter competence."


The TPA is expensive, stressful and unnecessary, and screens out teachers of color, says the state teachers' union. Some teachers say it's graded on the use of education buzzwords. “What does help to prepare educators is collaborating in classrooms with mentor teachers, working with clinical support supervisors, and quality teacher preparation programs," says Leslie Littman, California Teachers Association vice president. 


However, the Learning Policy Institute, headed by State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond, says eliminating the TPA is a mistake. LPI's research finds well-prepared candidates are more likely to pass the TPA, so the test shows which teacher education programs are inadequate.


A "narrowly focused study" of an earlier version of the TPA showed scores "predicted student achievement gains," according to the LPI report, writes Lambert. "Research from other states has also shown that scores on teaching performance assessments can predict teaching effectiveness."


In addition, disparities in TPA pass rates by race and ethnicity are "minimal," the research found.


Darling-Hammond, an emeritus Stanford education professor, is a very big cheese in California education. We'll see what happens.


Schools may not be as desperate for new teachers -- the sort who can't pass tests or put together a portfolio -- as they think.


For all the talk of a teacher shortage, many districts will be laying off teachers as pandemic funding runs out and enrollment declines.


Teacher vacancies sometimes reflect wish lists, writes Chad Aldeman. Facing a budget crisis, San Francisco Unified eliminated 927 unfilled positions and froze new hiring, he writes. "Media reports last fall decried San Francisco’s teacher shortages and cited the number of vacant positions the district had." But those vacancies are gone.


Laura Testino, a reporter from Chalkbeat Tennessee noted the same thing in Memphis, writes Aldeman. The district wiped out 450 vacancies. They didn't hire anybody. They just realized they couldn't afford to.

10 Comments


Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Jun 17

In a legal/institutional environment that subsidizes parents' choice of school (or other education options), it would not matter much what lunatic strategies the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel adopts.

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mcra99
Jun 14

After graduating from an accredited "Edumacation" school and passing a certification test (Praxis?), shouldn’t that be enough? Teach math - take a math certificatation test , etc. Give the new teacher three years with close obsevation and check his students' state test scores. It's not rocket science.


Portfolios are rarely ever read or scrutinized.


I was required, upon earning a teaching position in a new district, to write a year long plan. After 100+ pages of eduspeak (only two quarters written/planned), I was told to stop and not worry about it. Administrators leafed through it, let out a big breath as if to say - I'm not reading that.


Ed schools are the worst. That's where the problems are. Everyon…

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mrmillermathteacher
mrmillermathteacher
Jun 14

As a mentor teacher, I don't really like the edTPA. It's very biased towards one specific pedagogical slant. HOWEVER, there needs to be SOMETHING to evaluate teachers. While I won't point to a specific test and say "this is the one", I agree with m_t_anderson that we need something.


It amazes me that the same unions that scream about teachers as professionals squeal at any evaluation to determine the readiness or effectiveness of such professionals.

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PikeBishop65
PikeBishop65
Jun 14
Replying to

I have always felt that public school teachers in the US are a schizophrenic group. We appear to be "A profession that thinks it's an occupation" (We want guaranteed salary, great benefits, basic immunity from everything) or "An Occupation that thinks it's a profession" (We reject the kind of evaluation, peer review, proof of learning and scholarship that goes on at the college level)/

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Heresolong
Heresolong
Jun 13

"Some teachers say it's graded on the use of education buzzwords."


I concur with this. When I started teaching here in Washington state (19 years now) I was required to create a portfolio in order to get my professional teaching certificate. I tried to do the portfolio myself and failed every single section. I then re-did it while taking a class on "How to pass the portfolio". The vast majority of the time spent in class was on how to interpret the instructions and how to word the submissions in "education-ese". It was a total waste of time and did nothing to make me a better teacher.

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Education Realist
Education Realist
Jun 13

The article is nonsense. TPAs are a massive waste of time and money. And long before the TPA, California allowed teachers to take a series of courses instead of a credential test to show subject matter knowledge.


So there has always been a workaround the credential tests, an expensive and time consuming workaround. I'm not a big fan of the workaround, because ultimately professors will be pressured to pass people of color. But the workaround has been there for decades.


And the TPA is just a ridiculous test that's more propaganda than anything and costs a fortune.


Best approach is put in strictures on the courses that serve as a workaround for the credential test and be sure it's not…

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mrmillermathteacher
mrmillermathteacher
Jun 18
Replying to

I earned my BS in Math outside of California. Years later, when I decides to become a teacher, I was told that I'd have to either a) find a CSU or UC school to "bless" my transcript, or b) take a series of Praxis tests in order to prove "subject matter competence". Only Sac State would look at my transcript, and the dept head there said I'd need to take 3 more classes (incl a History of Math course) before he would sign me off. I took the tests. I didn't think I did overly well on the tests, but my scaled scores were well above the cutoff--and now I'm 3 years from retirement.

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