Student success stories

Preparing for state assessment

Are new teachers ready to teach? For WSU Vancouver teacher-training graduates, the answer is an unqualified yes.

This year, 68 student teachers from WSU Vancouver took a brand-new, rigorous state assessment, the edTPA. Washington is one of only two states that now require a passing score on this test of teaching skills before a person can obtain a teaching license. (The other state is New York.)

The results? One hundred percent of the WSU Vancouver student teachers passed on their first try.

June Canty, professor in the College of Education, was in the Spokane airport, waiting to fly back from a state conference, when she got the results on her mobile phone. “It was unexpected and welcome news,” she said. “No one has to retake the test.”

And it was a measure of how well WSU Vancouver had prepared student teachers for the test, which has been evolving over three and a half years. As vice chair of the Professional Educators Standards Board, which sets policy regarding educator certification in Washington, Canty was involved in the development of the test.

The edTPA was created by the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity and is administered by Pearson. Many other organizations and educators helped develop, refine and field test it before it was declared ready for use in the fall of 2013.

It takes 40 to 50 hours for a student teacher to complete the three detailed, analytical tasks required of the edTPA. Three weeks after submitting the packet of tasks, they get their results. The tasks are:

  • A planning task: three to five lesson plans for the unit they will teach, based around the Common Core state standards
  • An instructional task: video clips showing them working with specific types of students on these lessons
  • An assessment task: An analysis of what they learned from each lesson and how effectively their students learned 

Mary Murray is a member of WSU Vancouver’s Class of 2014 who graduated with a B.A. in education and student-taught fifth graders at York Elementary School in the Evergreen School District. Having passed the assessment has given her better understanding of what it takes to be an effective teacher, she said.

“It really caused me to be even more reflective of my practice and really understand what I can do to improve my practice,” she said. “And it has to be done every day.”

“The university was extremely helpful,” said Brianna Gier, who earned a Master in Teaching degree in 2014 and student-taught kindergarten at La Center Elementary School. “We continually had opportunities to practice the skills associated with the edTPA.”

WSU Vancouver’s three education degree programs—a bachelor’s degree for K-8 teachers and master’s degrees for elementary and secondary teachers—have evolved to help students prepare for the edTPA. “We’ve learned a lot,” Canty said.

The philosophy behind the edTPA is that “being an effective teacher isn’t just about planning or the Common Core standards,” Canty said. “Teachers really need to know the learners in the classroom, so they meet every student’s need. I think this is going to help close the achievement gap.”