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Officials could lower bar for passing new NY teacher exam

A student takes an exam.

A student takes an exam. Credit: iStock Photo

State education officials are eyeing a plan that could “recalibrate” — and presumably lower — passing scores on a challenging new teacher licensing exam that has produced a failure rate of more than 20 percent since it was introduced statewide in 2015.

The revamped assessment, called edTPA, was meant to measure candidates’ teaching skills realistically by requiring them to submit 20-minute videos of themselves working successfully in classrooms with groups of students.

Many college students hoping to qualify as teachers have complained, however, that preparing videos is technically difficult and time-consuming, at a time when they are also engaged in academic studies and student teaching. Another complaint is that the edTPA and three other tests required for state certification are expensive, with combined fees ranging as high as $750.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 students took the exam statewide in its first year.

On Tuesday, the Board of Regents, which sets statewide school policy, is scheduled to review proposed changes in the way teaching candidates prepare for state certification. One move underway would establish a standard-setting panel to “review and potentially recalibrate” the passing score for the edTPA.

Under that plan, passing scores would then be increased gradually over the next four years.

Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the state Education Department, said passage rates on the edTPA have averaged 77 percent since its inception. He added that the rate included college students who had not completed their teaching coursework, as well as those who had completed it.

In contrast, passing percentages on an older licensing exam also used by the state, the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written, or ATS-W, have run in the high 90s.

Originally, all candidates for teaching jobs were supposed to pass the new exam starting in May 2014. But high failure rates have prompted the Regents to extend the deadline on four separate occasions — most recently to June 2017.

Meanwhile, teaching candidates have been allowed to pass either the edTPA or ATS-W, in order to qualify.

Planning for a tougher teacher exam in New York State began in 2009, and Regents eventually settled on the edTPA, which was developed at Stanford University in California. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave the plan a boost in 2013 with a call for a “bar-like” exam for teachers.

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