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New York Lowers Required Score on Teacher Certification Exam

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New York state's school governing body has approved changes to its teacher certification process, including lowering the pass score on its licensure exam. 

New York is one of more than a dozen states that uses the Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA, as its licensure test. For the edTPA, candidates submit videos and portfolios to demonstrate their teaching skills and knowledge, rather than answering multiple-choice questions like on some other exams.

States set their own pass scores for the exam, and New York has received criticism for having one of the highest. The local union, New York State United Teachers, has repeatedly called the edTPA process "flawed" and said the requirements discourage prospective teachers from entering the profession.

Candidates currently need to score a 41 on the edTPA to pass—in some states it's closer to 35. According to the most recent annual report by edTPA, about 75 percent of candidates are expected pass the exam with a cutoff score of 41. Looking nationally, pass rates on state licensing exams have in the past generally fallen in the range of 90 to 100 percent. 

The state's Board of Regents says it has heard the feedback about the rigor of its certification requirements. A task force of more than 30 representatives from higher education and K-12 has been working on amending the edTPA requirements over the last nearly two years. 

Yesterday the board announced it would reduce the pass score to 38 starting next year. That required cutoff score would eventually ramp up to 40 by 2022. Several other states have used a phase-in method to increase their cutoff scores. 

"The new passing score on the edTPA remains among the highest of those states that require its use; at the same time, however, we continue to provide our teacher candidates with fair options to meet the exam's requirements," Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said according to a press release. 

The edTPA has been the subject of much controversy in the Empire State since it was rolled out—so much so, in fact, that state officials delayed the date by which all candidates had to pass it four separate times.

Second Chance for Some Teacher Candidates

In addition, teacher-education students who fall within 2 points of the pass score, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and pass any other required exams will still have a chance at certification. A panel will review their credentials, though the details on this process are still being determined, said David Cantaffa, an assistant provost for educator preparation for the State University of New York, who leads the task force.

The review will not cost anything for candidates, Cantaffa explained, whereas a retake of the exam costs $100 per task.

As of now, candidates who do not pass the edTPA exam have a safety net—they can pass the written Assessment of Teaching Skills instead. That option will end next summer. 

The state has already dropped a requirement that prospective teachers pass a literacy exam. Pass rates for black and Hispanic candidates on that exam, which cost over $100 to take, were well below those of white candidates, leading some to call it discriminatory. Cantaffa said the exam was redundant.

"It's not that we are saying literacy is unimportant—it's just the opposite, we all think literacy is essential to being an effective educator," he said. "But if it's duplicative of other efforts to assess literacy, why would we put that cost burden on candidates?" 

A 2016 study found that teacher-candidates who passed the edTPA on their first try tended to increase their students' literacy scores more in their first year teaching than those who didn't. But passing the exam had no bearing on students' math scores. 

Photo: Getty Images


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