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Washington, New York Set Passing Bars on New Teacher Test

UPDATED

Not long ago, I posed the important question of how high states would choose to set the passing bar on the edTPA, a test that assesses new teachers' skills based in part on their actual classroom teaching. And now that states are beginning to introduce the test into licensing, we're starting to get some answers. 

Washington state, as I report in a story this week for Education Week, on Nov. 14 chose to set its bar at 35 out of 75 points, for a predicted passing rate of 85 percent of teacher-candidates. That figure is somewhat lower than the nationally recommended maximum of 42, a decision made in part because the exam is still pretty new, a state official told me. It's possible the state will look at increasing the score over time. 

Conversely, a few days later, on Nov. 22, a New York state panel set its marker: a 41 out of 75 for most teachers, a 49 out of 90 points for elementary teachers, and a 35 out of 65 for world- and classical-language teachers.  (There are more total points available on the elementary version of edTPA and fewer for language teachers; I've asked the New York state education department for estimates of candidate-passage rates for those groups.) Candidates also would have to earn a minimum score across the various rubrics that make up the total score.

Those appear to be tougher scores to achieve than in Washington state. We know from the national pilot data that only about 58 percent of candidates are expected to pass the exam if the bar is set at a 42.

New York's cutoff for elementary teachers is an especially interesting choice because the pilot data show that they tended to post slightly lower scores overall on the exam. On the other hand, as I've reported elsewhere, New York produces about three times as many elementary teachers as it has jobs, so a higher cutoff score presumably won't lead to a supply problem.

The two states are the first two to take the exam statewide and attach licensing stakes to it: Washington in January 2014, and New York by May of 2014. One other state, Minnesota, uses edTPA as part of its proces for reviewing teacher-preparation programs.

You can read much more about implementation of the edTPA in my storywhich includes perspectives from two teachers who took the exam, as well as a variety of policy officials and teacher-educators.

Clarification:  A previous version of this post omitted the detail that certain groups of teachers have a different number of total points available on the exam. 

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