Bill advances that would eliminate a ‘burdensome’ test for would-be teachers
(Courtesy of the New Jersey Governor’s Office)
To become a public school teacher in New Jersey, you have to obtain a bachelor’s degree, complete a teacher preparation program, student teach for at least 12 weeks, and pass at least one Praxis exam.
You also must pass a performance-based test known as edTPA, which requires turning in a portfolio of lesson plans, video recordings, student work examples, and more.
That test is holding people back from pursuing a career in education — and aggravating the teacher shortage plaguing schools — according to the dozen people who testified at the Senate Education Committee Monday. The panel voted unanimously to advance a bill (S896) that would prohibit the state from requiring student teachers to complete the edTPA, a move educators hope will expand the shrinking hiring pool.
“There’s no humanity or dignity in this kind of assessment,” said Efrain Monterroso, a first-generation college graduate and high school Spanish teacher in East Windsor.
Kathleen Fernandez, executive director of New Jersey Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages/New Jersey Bilingual Educator, called the test a “redundant and detrimental assessment.”
“The edTPA poses additional barriers to prospective teachers because it’s a financial, linguistic, and cultural barrier,” Fernandez said.
Teachers union the New Jersey Education Association agrees with that statement. In a letter sent to the state Board of Education and lawmakers last week, the NJEA and eight other organizations urged the committee to remove the edTPA requirement, citing its negative impact on the mental and emotional health of potential teachers, its financial burden, a lack of transparency in the scoring process, and its inability to predict whether the person taking it will become an effective teacher.
Many witnesses said the test has become so burdensome on student teachers that courses have shifted to focus on how to pass it, dominating the student teaching experience.
That’s a bad practice for people pursuing education as a profession, said Tony Trongone, superintendent of Millville schools and president-elect of the state’s superintendent association.
“They work backwards to achieve a passing score,” Trongone said.
The edTPA costs $300, and Praxis exams can tack on another $300, according to the NJEA. Suzanne McCotter, dean of the School of Education at The College of New Jersey, said these costs could leave low-income and other non-traditional students excluded from teaching as a profession.
“I’ve had students at the end of their four- or five-year program decide to leave the field because they can’t afford the expense of becoming a teacher,” she said.
After the Senate committee passed the bill Monday, the crowd of dozens of teachers, school educators, and administrators watching the meeting applauded.
A companion bill in the Assembly was introduced in January and has yet to be scheduled for a committee vote.
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