An Invitation to Conversation at the 2020 AMTE Annual Conference
Friday February 7 from 3-4 PM in the Third Street Foyer
The Advocacy/Education/Research (AER) division of AMTE recognizes the key role that certification exams play in our teacher preparation programs and in our professional work as mathematics teacher educators (MTEs). As teacher educators, we have long struggled with the issue of how best to assess novice teachers, and how best to evaluate our own efforts in preparing mathematics teachers. Needless to say, this issue is astoundingly complex, as it lies at the intersection of a number of unresolved foundational questions about teaching, learning and accountability in education. For many of us in AMTE, this issue has become increasingly salient in light of two recent documents, the AMTE Standards for Preparing Teachers of Mathematics (AMTE, 2017) and “Assessing the Assessment: Evidence of Reliability and Validity in the edTPA” (Gitomer, Martinez, Batty, & Hyland, 2019).
Many of us work in states that have mandated a minimum score on the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) as a teacher certification requirement. This requirement has huge ramifications for how we prepare mathematics teachers, how we design our programs, how we define and measure success in those endeavors, who will (or will not) become teachers, and a host of other issues. Not surprisingly, this assessment has also been controversial. Gitomer and colleagues (2019) claim that arguments establishing the reliability and validity for the edTPA are fundamentally flawed. Anecdotal evidence suggests numerous ways that the edTPA requirement has affected mathematics teacher education programs in both positive and negative ways. It has helped some of us align our programs more closely to teacher preparation standards and provided common goals and language to support productive conversations among all those who interact with teacher candidates (e.g. methods instructors, supervisors). At the same time it has also acted as a frustrating barrier to our programs and to our students, and raised significant equity concerns.
We would like to leverage the conversation generated by the Gitomer et al. (2019) article to see if there are ways we can support our membership around issues related to the edTPA. In particular, we would like to provide time and space for members to share their knowledge and expertise, and begin to think together about how to respond to the critiques that have been raised, and/or best use edTPA in our work.
We see two different, although not exclusive, ways of approaching this conversation analogous to working within the system versus changing and critiquing the system itself. There is value in both of these approaches and would like to encourage discussion within and between both of them.
Working within the system
This takes edTPA as a given and asks how can we identify and maximize the benefits of using edTPA, and identify and minimize the drawbacks. This lens foregrounds questions like:
- How can I help my students succeed on edTPA while also addressing key learning goals for them (like those addressed in the AMTE Standards)?
- How can I use edTPA to identify and make improvements to my program?
- What are the difficulties associated with edTPA, and how can we minimize those difficulties?
Working to evaluate/critique/change the system itself
This approach questions edTPA itself. It allows us to examine and critique edTPA with an eye towards improving it or advocating against its use. This lens foregrounds questions like:
- What are the underlying assumptions about teaching, learning content?
- Is the test reliable and valid?
- How is the test being used?
- What effects is the test having on our programs, the makeup of the teaching profession and the learning of k-12 students?
We also see several questions that could bridge and inform both of these points of view. So, for instance, we know that some teacher educators have found that teacher candidates who teach some units (i.e. systems of linear equations) have more success than those who teach others (i.e. trigonometric identities). This is simultaneously an issue about the reliability and validity of the test itself, a barrier to student placements that give our students the best chance of success, and a potential lever to push for larger changes around curriculum in schools. We think that critiquing the test will allow us to be better advocates for our students, as well as advocates for change around the larger system of educational evaluation and certification.
We would like to invite anyone interested in beginning this conversation to join us at the 2020 AMTE Annual Conference in Phoenix, on Friday February 7 from 3-4pm in the Third Street Foyer. At that time, we will give a short overview outlining some of the issues and questions that we have identified, and solicit ideas about what our next steps should be. We look forward to seeing you there!
- Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (2017). Standards for Preparing Teachers of Mathematics. Retrieved from amte.net/standards.
- Gitomer, D. H., Martínez, J. F., Battey, D., & Hyland, N. E. (2019). Assessing the Assessment: Evidence of Reliability and Validity in the edTPA. American Educational Research Journal, 0002831219890608.