Bill barring controversial teaching test gets conditional veto from governor

Governor Murphy wants lawmakers to require teaching candidates complete a different assessment

By: - September 22, 2022 4:01 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy's veto pen left intact provisions removing edTPA as a requirement for teaching certificates, but Murphy wants other tests to take its place. (Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

Gov. Phil Murphy has conditionally vetoed a broadly bipartisan measure that would eliminate a requirement that teaching candidates complete a performance-based assessment widely loathed by educators.

The governor’s action, if approved by the Legislature, would still remove the requirement for teachers to complete the controversial edTPA — the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, administered to would-be teachers since 2009 — but under his conditional veto, the unpopular test would be replaced with broader assessments run by educator preparation programs meant to gauge performance in the classroom.

“I wholeheartedly agree that the current edTPA requirement for teaching candidates is counterproductive and should be eliminated, but also believe that other types of performance-based assessments can ensure that teaching candidates are ready to enter the classroom,” the governor said in a statement.

The original bill was meant to address New Jersey’s long-standing teacher shortage by eliminating a test that lawmakers, school officials, and teachers unions have called a major roadblock to school staffing.

“It’s not effective. It’s expensive. It’s cumbersome, and it’s a barrier to bringing more teachers into the profession at a time when we are woefully under-sourced,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex), a sponsor.

Though the shortages are fueled by a declining number of teaching candidates and retirements from an increasingly older pool of educatorsadvocates have warned other departures spurred by the pandemic have exacerbated the issue.

Though it’s not clear exactly how bad New Jersey’s teacher shortage is — in January, Murphy signed a law requiring the state to compile data and issue annual reports on the teaching workforce — lawmakers have ramped up efforts to staff up New Jersey’s schools in recent months.

Among their efforts is a bill to create a five-year pilot program to issue limited certificates to teaching candidates. And the New Jersey Board of Education last month considered a bevy of new rules that, among other things, would help qualify teachers to instruct math and science courses, where shortages are typically more severe.

Murphy’s conditional veto did not appear to draw the ire of those opposed to edTPA as a testing tool — Jasey said she believes the bill with Murphy’s suggested changes would still accomplish its goal — though some of the bill’s supporters questioned his timing. They suggested some shortages could have been addressed for the current school year if Murphy had taken action on the bill closer to its unanimous June passage.

“There are classroom vacancies across New Jersey right now waiting to be filled by educators who will be eligible for certification as soon as EdTPA is finally eliminated,” NJEA officers said in a statement. “While it is unfortunate that the school year had to start without them, New Jersey students will soon have the opportunity to benefit from their passion and expertise.”

While arguments against the edTPA usually center around its effectiveness, advocates have also pointed to its cost while pushing for its removal.

The test carries a $300 fee, and prospective teachers who fail must pay the same fee to try again. Those costs are in addition to fees for other assessments, like PRAXIS tests, meant to measure teaching candidates’ classroom skills.

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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.