Preparing New Teachers to Work with ELLs: An Overview of the edTPA

In a recent blog post, I wrote about how ELL experts are rethinking preparation of ESL teachers in the Common Core era. As I wrote that post, one of the topics I started thinking about was the edTPA, a relatively new assessment for pre-service teacher candidates (formerly called the Teacher Performance Assessment).

Ever since I provided some limited input on the writing of the English as an Additional Language (EAL) edTPA assessment handbook, I have been following the rollout of the assessment. This week’s blog post will focus on the new edTPA assessment for English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher candidates and how the edTPA ties in to the Common Core. First, I’ll provide you some context of teacher assessment in general. Then, I’ll tell you a little about what the edTPA is, share information about the edTPA in EAL, discuss its connection to the Common Core and professional standards, and give you a chance to share your thoughts.

Next week, I’ll share perspectives from colleagues Laura Baecher, Luciana de Oliveira and Cindy Lundgren on the edTPA’s implementation from their positions on the ground in ESL teacher preparation programs.


Assessment for Pre-Service Teachers

In order for new teachers to be certified or licensed to teach in public schools, they usually need to pass some type of culminating assessment in their certification area. Many times, the state in which they are getting certified determines which type of assessment they’ll take at the end of their teacher education program. For example, in the case of ESL certification, some states require teacher candidates to pass the ETS Praxis in English to Speakers of Other Languages before they are granted licensure to teach ESL.


What is the edTPA?

The edTPA is another option that can be used to assess teacher candidates, and some states have chosen to implement the edTPA for their pre-service teacher candidates (see map below). The edTPA was developed by Stanford University and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) and is now delivered by Evaluation Systems, a Pearson group. It is a subject-specific assessment in 27 different teaching fields including Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle Childhood and Secondary. The subject-specific assessment that ESL teacher candidates would take is the English as an Additional Language assessment.

The edTPA is intended to be used as a summative assessment given at the end of an educator preparation program for teacher licensure or certification. The edTPA includes a review of a teacher candidate’s authentic teaching materials (including a videotaped lesson) that documents and demonstrates each teacher candidate’s ability to effectively teach subject matter to all students. The goal of the edTPA is to make sure new teachers are able to teach each student effectively and improve student achievement. A unique feature of all the edTPA subject-specific assessments is that they assess candidates’ abilities to teach academic language to all students (not just ELLs) in all content areas.

Where the edTPA Is Being Used

The edTPA is being implemented to different degrees in several states, and you can learn more about each state's implementation from this map on the edTPA website:

Participating States as of 2014. Source: edTPA website.

   Policy in Place

In general, these states have statewide policies in place requiring a state-approved performance assessment as part of program completion or for state licensure and/or state program accreditation/review. In these states, edTPA also has been approved as a performance asessment for these purposes.

   Taking Steps Toward Implementation

A performance assessment and/or edTPA are been considered at the state level for program completion or as a licensure requirement.

   State Participating in edTPA

At least one provider of teacher preparation-either traditional or alternative-is exploring or trying out edTPA


English as an Additional Language Assessment

In the EAL Assessment, candidates describe, analyze, evaluate, and teach a series of 3–5 lessons in EAL. If candidates teach within a large time block, that would equate to about 3–5 hours of connected instruction. They complete three tasks for the edTPA:

  1. Planning for Instruction and Assessment
  2. Instructing and Engaging Students in Learning
  3. Assessing Student Learning.

As part of the process, candidates submit two video clips of up to 10 minutes in length per clip. The first clip focuses on the candidate engaging students through modalities to develop English Language Proficiency/Development (ELPD) through content or supporting students in practicing language. The second clip focuses on academic language competencies.

Candidates submit artifacts and commentaries as part of the assessment. The artifacts represent authentic work completed by the candidate and his or her students. Artifacts include lesson plans, copies of instructional and assessment materials, video clips of teaching, and student work samples. Teacher candidates use the commentaries to describe their artifacts, explain the rationale behind their choice, and analyze what they learned about their teaching practice and their students’ learning. A series of five-level rubrics is used to score candidates’ performance. The descriptors in the rubrics address a wide range of performance representing the knowledge and skills of a novice not ready to teach (Level 1) to the advanced practices of a highly accomplished beginner (Level 5).


Standards and the edTPA

Common Core

The link between the CCSS and teacher education has received increased attention lately (see the recent article in Education Week titled Standards Pose Teacher-Prep Challenge for more information). In the case of the CCSS and edTPA, the edTPA is aligned to the demands of the CCSS. For example, candidates’ lesson plans must include content standards (including the CCSS) that are the target of student learning and learning objectives associated with both ELPD standards and content standards. The edTPA focuses on developing students’ grammatical, pragmatic, discourse, and metalinguistic competencies through at least one of four modalities of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Teachers may also apply scaffolding or sheltering techniques to help make content accessible to ELLs.

TESOL Professional Standards

The edTPA EAL assessment is also framed around another set of standards, TESOL International Association’s Standards for the Recognition of Initial TESOL Programs in P-12 ESL Teacher Education (2010). The first version of TESOL’s professional standards was released in 2001, and the standards are used by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) to give national recognition to ESL teacher education programs. Currently, there are 133 nationally recognized ESL teacher education programs in 25 states who have used the TESOL P-12 Professional Teaching Standards to design their programs. TESOL’s Standards underscore the importance the edTPA places on teachers supporting ELLs’ English language proficiency/development within content-based instruction. In addition, elements of the TESOL Standards are embedded throughout the fifteen rubrics that accompany the EAL edTPA handbook.


Your Turn

What do you think of the edTPA and the way it will prepare future ESL teachers to teach ELLs in the Common Core era? Do you have experience preparing for or helping pre-service candidates prepare for the assessment?

Please share your thoughts!

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