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New teacher assessment better tests classroom methods

Extra cost may be burden for some college students

POSTED: January 12, 2014 12:13 a.m.

As teaching candidates prepare for extra challenges on the way to earning certification, college leaders welcome the assessment but worry it may become a roadblock.

“We, as colleges of education, have to prepare (students) to take and pass that assessment,” University of North Georgia College of Education Dean Bob Michael said. “It’s a very intense process by which the intern is evaluated on their teaching.”

The new assessment, called edTPA — formerly the Teacher Performance Assessment — is an extra step on the way a college student becomes certified before becoming a classroom teacher and part of a wider reform of the certification process.

Certification itself is changing from one-size-fits-all to a tiered, multiyear process allowing for more in-depth scrutiny of teachers at the beginning of their career.

Before earning certification, teaching candidates take the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators, two tests that cost $152 each, or $292 if the student takes both in a single session. These test for content knowledge.

The new assessment, designed to be administered during student teaching, will look at the actual teaching process, using in-person observations and video as part of the final score, which will be given by an outside company. It costs $300.

That combined with this new assessment is around $600, a chunk of change for many college students, particularly those who rely on assistance from grants and scholarships.

“There is a concern that at some point potential teachers will start to say, ‘Look, I might as well study for the bar exam and get paid that kind of money,’” Michael said.

The changes are coming from the University System of Georgia both as a way to track the effectiveness and rigorousness of college teaching programs in preparing students for certification and a teaching career.

The university system is working with the Professional Standards Commission and the Georgia Department of Education to better prepare teaching candidates.

“No teacher will be certified to teach in a classroom in Georgia without passing tests and an ability to demonstrate understanding of both content knowledge and classroom teaching,” Professional Standards Commission Executive Secretary Kelly Henson said in a news release. “And the bar will be set very high.”

The changes take effect in February, this being a pilot year for colleges of education across the state to see how students measure up to the new assessment. It will be in place for all teaching candidates next year.

If a student fails a part of the assessments, he or she still graduates with a college degree, just not with a teaching certification. That could leave some with a degree in education but no ability to teach in a classroom.
But Brenau University College of Education Dean Sandra Leslie said there are multiple opportunities to retake the assessments.

“(The assessment) is designed to be done, I think, most effectively during student teaching which is their last semester, but it’s done early in that last semester,” she said. “They have an opportunity to redo a part if they didn’t pass a single part, or retake the test.”

For students who don’t pass, the University of North Georgia is looking at adding an extra course to be taken over the summer. But, of course, it would cost extra.

“So you can see why it’s incumbent on us to make sure that these kids succeed,” Michael said.

“But again, the concept is fine and certainly you want to ensure that students are not only well-prepared for content, but also well-prepared in terms of performance.”

Leslie agreed.

“There’s always a concern,” she said. “But honestly, if the state requires it for certification ... then that’s just part of it. There’s nothing we can do about it.”


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