Why we’re boycotting the edTPA

March 5, 2014

Inspired by the Chicago parents' and teachers' boycott of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), graduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have decided to boycott the edTPA, a standardized exam for preservice teachers.

They join a battle against over-testing, school closings and corporate reforms taking place around the city. After 40 percent of parents opted their children out of the ISAT, teachers at Saucedo Elementary School in the Little Village neighborhood voted to boycott the exam. The teachers are holding fast to their decision despite threats from Chicago Public Schools officials that they could have their certification revoked. Beyond Saucedo, record numbers of parents around Chicago have opted their children out of the ISAT, and at least one more school--Drummond Montessori on the Northwest Side--has joined the boycott.

This was the local context in which the UIC College of Education Interim Dean Alfred Tatum announced at the end of February--without the input of students or faculty--that the masters program would be closing. Though students were shocked and discouraged, they also saw an opportunity to take an active stance in opposing the use of corporate assessments to shut down learning communities.

This last week, the current graduating classes resolved to boycott the edTPA, a newly instituted, highly invasive for-profit assessment for preservice teachers. (For a phenomenal analysis of the edTPA, read this article by an educator who was fired for supporting students in their resistance to the assessment.) Here's, we publish a brief common statement about the boycott by UIC students, which was published at the Radical Faggot blog.

THIS YEAR, our Elementary Education Masters program, part of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was selected as a pilot program for an assessment known as the edTPA. Based on a 15-minute video segment and a collection of writing prompts on lesson context, planning and reflection, the edTPA markets itself as an authentic assessment of teacher readiness.

Administered by the Pearson Corporation, the edTPA is poised to become a national assessment, potentially generating huge profits for the company. Claiming to ensure new teachers are prepared to enter the field, completing the edTPA could be required for all pre-service teachers in order to receive licensure in the future.

We are boycotting the edTPA and returning to build our own assessment, collectively determined by faculty and candidates in our program. We do so with the belief that an empowered teacher assessment should hold the following characteristics:

Student teaching assessments should take into account all aspects of a teacher's practice. The edTPA forces candidates to adhere to a narrow, rigid rubric that focuses all efforts on the one lesson being tested, diverting attention away from the complex, long-term practice of teaching.

A teacher at the blackboard
Student teaching assessments should support growth and learning throughout the candidate's process. The edTPA operates on a pass/fail basis that offers candidates no feedback or support for improvement.

Student teaching assessments should promote opportunity for all candidates. The edTPA costs candidates approximately $300, and, as with all standardized assessments, will be biased against Black, Brown, poor, working and immigrant teacher candidates.

Student teaching assessments should be conducted by educators who are a part of the candidate's learning community. The edTPA will be assessed remotely by temporarily hired educators who will be paid a flat fee of $75 to grade a 50-page document and 15 minutes of video. These hired educators have no connection to the communities in which we teach and learn.

Student teaching assessments should encourage candidates to teach in all schools, regardless of need. The edTPA discourages candidates from performing the assessment in high-need schools, where challenging classrooms may reflect poorly on the candidate's score.

While the edTPA purports to be a more authentic form of teaching assessment, we must reject and debunk this notion. For, ultimately, as with all forms of standardized assessment, the core assumption of the edTPA is that underprepared teachers and underworked students are the primary issues facing public education in the U.S.

Being assessed more will not make us better teachers, just as it will not make better readers, writers and thinkers out of our students. Our universities, as with our elementary schools, become stronger when they are provided the resources they need, and when the capable educators within them are trusted to perform the duties they have sworn to carry out.

We boycott the EdTPA because we believe as young teachers, and as members of our immediate communities, we know best what is needed to make our classrooms, our programs and our neighborhoods into the most effective spaces for learning they can be.

We demand support in this process, and see this boycott as an active means of supporting ourselves and each other, as well as all pre-service teachers, long-term educators, and students who are working under the pressure of similar measures.

Members of the Elementary Education Masters Program
University of Illinois at Chicago

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