A new study finds that teacher candidates who passed the edTPA teacher performance assessment for certification and licensure on their first try tended to boost their students’ reading test scores more in their first year of teaching than those who didn’t.
While that finding is good news for supporters of the Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA, the rest of the study is a bit of a mixed bag. In contrast to the reading findings, passing the exam didn’t bear any relationship to students’ math scores. It’s also less clear whether incremental improvements on the exam—such as improving one’s score by three or four points—translate into student learning gains.
Dan Goldhaber, who is one of the three researchers who conducted the study for the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), stated, “This is a study where middle-ground findings make it harder to interpret.”
The exam differs from most other licensing tests because it hinges on a demonstration of a teacher-candidate’s classroom instruction, rather than a series of multiple-choice questions, as is the case with other popular teacher-tests. Some 18,000 teacher-candidates took the edTPA in 2014.
It’s unclear how the new findings might shape edTPA policy moving forward. Some 13 states now use or are planning to use it for licensing or to gauge the quality of preparation programs.
The CALDER study takes a stab at the important question of “predictive validity”—whether candidates who achieve a certain score on the edTPA help their students learn more than those who don’t.
The researchers looked at teacher-candidates in Washington state. They examined a subset of 280 of these teachers who taught reading and math in grades 4-8 in 2014-15, using a value added methodology to gauge their impact on student performance.
They found a significant association between candidates who achieved the state cutoff score—35 out of 75 in most fields—and students’ test scores in reading. Washington is set to increase its cutoff score to 40, and the reading findings hold up at that cutoff score, too, though they are not as strong. (States that require the edTPA each set their own scoring standards, so it’s easier to pass in some states than others.)
But in math, there was no consistent relationship between teachers who had passing scores on the edTPA and student test-score gains.
To read more findings, see http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2016/05/edtpa_teaching_exam_study_mixed.html