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Georgia teachers now graded on classroom performance
Current, future educators face new state standard on teaching abilitiies
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Becoming a teacher in Georgia will soon be a bit more challenging.

To enter the field, teachers in the state have long been required to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, complete a certification program and post a passing grade on the state certification test, the Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators.

Beginning Sept. 1, they will also have to prove to the state they can run a classroom.

Standards for licensing new teachers will include passing edTPA, a performance assessment based on a teacher’s subject area.

“It’s to test candidates’ readiness for the classroom on day one,” said Sandy Leslie, dean of education at Brenau University. “Previously, in the state we had the GACE content exams, and that was the requirement to become certified. But knowing content doesn’t necessarily mean you can teach.”

A process designed to be “uniform and impartial,” edTPA requires aspiring teachers to submit evidence from their student teaching experience, including lesson plans, assessment of student work, personal reflections and video of the student teacher instructing a class.

At Brenau, education majors have had access through the last year to prepare for edTPA.

“While I was in this class, we really didn’t focus on calling the process ‘edTPA,’ and I think that helped us as students take it one step at a time,” student Logan Deyarmin said.

Deyarmin, an education major at Brenau, will be a student teacher next spring. She said preparing for edTPA has given her additional skills for her future classroom.

“I think one of the major purposes of edTPA is to teach a different way of coming up with assessments,” Deyarmin said. “People usually think that you would form the question, and then break it down to see what knowledge it’s really asking — in other words, you would form the question with the answer in mind first. But that’s a test-taker mentality, not a test-maker mentality.”

Deyarmin said preparing for edTPA’s review of her future student assessments has prepared her to perform those assessments thoroughly.

Leslie said a college or university’s education faculty can only act as a guide for students submitting edTPA.

“We cannot edit their work, or tell them to redo this or that,” she said. “We can ask probing questions and guide them through the process, but we have to be hands-off to see where they are.”

Anne Marie Fenton, the director of assessment for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, said edTPA roots out unprepared teachers in a way a written test cannot.

According to a release, edTPA has 27 different models based on various subjects from elementary through secondary levels. It is meant to be comparable to licensing exams in medical, architectural or legal fields.

The new requirement was established by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission earlier this month, at which time the commission also determined the state’s edTPA passing score. The assessment includes 15 separate rubrics grading the new teachers, each with a score of 1-5 points.

The commission set Georgia’s edTPA passing score at 35 out of a maximum 75 points for the first two years. After two years, the state passing standard will increase to 38. The national recommendation is 42 points.

Leslie said edTPA will cost students $300 to take, and if they need to retake a section, it is $100 per section.

“It’s not that it’s a money-making venture, but it does cost money to have it scored,” she said.

The process might mean extra stress for future teachers, but Deyarmin said she feels ready for it.

“I often go into my field experiences and hear the girls from other universities complain about how outrageous edTPA is and that they wish me the best of luck when it’s my turn to actually student-teach,” she said. “I can totally sympathize with them because my ed assessment class was probably one of the most challenging and mind-boggling ones to date.”

Leslie said she believes the edTPA is a good addition to teacher certification requirements in the state.

“I don’t think just knowing the content means you’re classroom-ready, that you have the skills to own your classroom and guide your students,” she said. “It really is an in-depth look at how you’re teaching with regard to how your students are learning.”

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