Reading & Literacy

Study on Performance-Based Test for New Teachers Yields Mixed Results

By Stephen Sawchuk — May 31, 2016 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Does testing make for better teaching? The first major independent research study on a closely watched licensing test for teachers that measures classroom skills, the edTPA, has some mixed answers to that question.

New teachers who passed the edTPA on their first try tended to boost their students’ reading achievement more than those who didn’t, according to the study, conducted by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER.

But passing the exam didn’t seem to bear any relationship to students’ math scores. And it’s less clear whether posting small score improvements on the exam translates into student-learning gains.

“This is a study where middle-ground findings make it harder to interpret,” said Dan Goldhaber, the director of CALDER at the American Institutes for Research.

The edTPA differs from most other licensing tests in that it hinges on a demonstration of classroom instruction, rather than on a stream of multiple-choice questions.

Predictive Validity?

Some 18,000 teacher-candidates took the edTPA in 2014, and 13 states now use or are planning to use the test for licensing, or to gauge the quality of preparation programs.

The CALDER study takes a stab at the important question of “predictive validity"—that is, whether teacher-candidates who achieve a certain score on the edTPA end up helping their students learn more than those who don’t.

The researchers examined scores from some 2,300 Washington state teacher-candidates who took the exam in 2013-14. Then they analyzed the standardized-test performance of students taught by a subset of those teachers, using a “value added” methodology to gauge their impact on student performance. (Candidates did not have to pass in order to teach until January 2014.)

The researchers found a significant association between candidates who achieved the Washington state cutoff score—35 out of a possible 75 for most certification areas—and students’ test scores in reading.

But in math, there was no consistent link between teachers who had passing edTPA scores and students’ test-score gains.

It’s unclear why the link showed up only in reading, said Goldhaber.

“It falls into the realm of speculation, but I think some of what edTPA is picking up is your ability to communicate, either in written form or orally. And those are skills sets that may be more important to teaching reading,” he said.

A Controversial Exam

Proponents of the exam have billed it not just as a way of gauging teacher skills, but as a developmental tool that can help teacher-preparation programs improve their curriculum. To investigate that potential, the researchers also looked at whether students did better as candidates’ scores improved.

But the study found that the results were mixed in this connection, too. There was no association between edTPA score distribution and students’ reading scores. In math, there was only modest evidence that a higher score consistently meant more effective teaching.

The findings are likely to be closely analyzed, in part because the exam has proved to be controversial.

Although it was designed by Linda Darling-Hammond—one of the country’s most influential teacher-educators—and her team at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity, or SCALE, some teacher-educators say the edTPA diminishes their own responsibility to determine when someone is ready to teach. Others question whether the exam is vulnerable to cheating, or at $300 a pop, too expensive.

Ray Pecheone, the executive director of SCALE, noted that value-added estimates can be unstable. But he praised the study overall.

“I find the results, while mixed, encouraging,” he said.

Pecheone added that he would like to see future research look at the link between edTPA scores and teachers’ evaluations and to track results over time.

“The first year of teaching is really a struggle for most teachers, ... and it takes certainly more than a year for them to really show powerful results, so I’d love to see this study continued over multiple years,” he said.

Coverage of policy efforts to improve the teaching profession is supported by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, at www.joycefdn.org/Programs/Education. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the June 01, 2016 edition of Education Week as Study on Teacher Test Finds Mixed Results

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.
School & District Management Webinar Fostering Student Well-Being with Programs That Work
Protecting student well-being has never been more important. Join this webinar to learn how to ensure your programs yield the best outcomes.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy As Book Bans Escalate, Here's What You Need to Know
Catch up on numbers and findings from new reports on the growing push to ban books in schools and libraries.
5 min read
A recent bookstore display features books that have been frequently banned from schools.
A display of banned books is in a Barnes & Noble book store in Pittsford, New York, on Sunday, September 25, 2022.
Ted Shaffrey/AP
Reading & Literacy Q&A Banned-Book Author: If a Book Isn't in the School Library, 'It Might as Well Not Exist'
Ashley Hope Pérez, an author and a former high school English teacher, explains her concerns with the current wave of school book bans.
7 min read
Ashley Hope Pérez, author of "Out of Darkness," the third most banned book in the country.
Ashley Hope Pérez, author of <i>Out of Darkness,</i> the third most banned book in the country.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Hope Pérez
Reading & Literacy Q&A How to Build Better Small-Group Reading Instruction
Reading expert Matthew Burns answers questions about how to rev up classroom reading groups.
5 min read
Latasha Johnson teaches reading skills to a kindergarten classroom at Walnut Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C. on May 25, 2022.
Latasha Johnson teaches kindergartners in a reading group at Walnut Creek Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this year.
Kate Medley for Education Week
Reading & Literacy Book Ban Efforts Surging in 2022, Library Association Says
This year's numbers for challenges to books already approach last year's totals, which were the highest in decades.
3 min read
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. The wave of attempted book banning and restrictions continues to intensify, the American Library Association reported Friday. Numbers for 2022 already approach last year's totals, which were the highest in decades.
Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, poses with books that have been the subject of complaints from parents.
Rick Bowmer/AP