There could soon be one less box for individuals to check when working to become a teacher in the Garden State.

Legislation approved by a New Jersey Senate committee would do away with the statewide requirement that wannabe teachers complete the edTPA, a performance-based assessment, as a requirement for teacher licensure in the state. Advocates and lawmakers argue the assessment is essentially a waste of time and money, keeping potential candidates from entering New Jersey or completing the licensure process.

"There is no humanity or dignity in this type of assessment," said Efrain Monterroso, a New Jersey teacher and 2019 Montclair State University graduate.

Monterroso said the edTPA requirements nearly discouraged him from becoming a teacher. The required portfolio, which must include a recording of the candidate in the classroom, costs $300 to submit, he said. And if one fails a portion of the assessment, there's a short turnover time to redo the work and send in another $100.

"It takes away from the true purpose of student teaching, to teach and receive effective feedback," Monterroso said. "It also takes away from more meaningful work, such as helping students ... as well as collaborating with colleagues and learning better teaching practices."

The New Jersey Education Association, in partnership with multiple organizations, sent an open letter to legislators and New Jersey education officials on Mar. 2 to call for the elimination of edTPA, which is administered and reviewed by Pearson Education, Inc.

"edTPA is costly, redundant, and fails to provide useful information about effective instructional quality beyond what is already collected in educator preparation programs and multiple measures of evaluation within the provisional certification phase," the letter read, noting that other states have recently elminated edTPA as a requirement.

A temporary waiver of the edTPA requirement has been in effect since November 2020. A bill looking to scrap the requirement altogether was approved unanimously by the Senate Education Committee on Mar. 7. Under the bill, a teacher prep program could still mandate completion of edTPA, but successful completion wouldn't be a statewide requirement in order to land a job.

"If we want to make New Jersey a more equitable state, eradicating this burdensome assessment is a step in the right direction," said Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer. "In the midst of a teacher shortage, we should assist teaching candidates rather than further obstruct their opportunity to teach in a classroom."

Mike Volpe, with Central Jersey Program for the Recruitment of Diverse Educators, said recruiters are forced to go out of state many times and "sell New Jersey teaching as a career," due to a dwindling number of in-state candidates. Making that sale isn't so he easy, he said, when otherwise qualified candidates can't get started in New Jersey unless they've cleared edTPA requirements.

"We need as many pathways toward a career in education as we possibly can — not put more hurdles in the way, not dissuade more young idealists from this noble profession, and not create a bleaker future for education in New Jersey," Volpe said.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com
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