This month’s blog post was written with our colleagues at Montclair State and Rutgers Universities and is cross-featured on the New Jersey State Policy Lab website, the organization that is funding their project.
Educator preparation programs (EPPs) in New Jersey are engaged in a nonstop cycle of recruiting, training, and graduating teachers for the state, which has experienced a severe teacher shortage. The design and practices of these programs are substantially influenced by policies of both the state and accrediting organizations. What do busy practitioners at EPPs do when policies that directly affect their work are in flux?
In 2022, Governor Murphy signed into law S.896, which removed the requirement for teacher candidates to complete a state-approved performance-based assessment, including the previously required and widely critiqued edTPA, and provided each EPP the authority to design or select its own performance-based assessment. The edTPA had been a significant, time-intensive process for teacher candidates, and EPPs had deeply integrated edTPA into their curriculum and dedicated resources to support candidates’ successful completion of edTPA’s components. This policy change has the potential to fundamentally transform daily practice, program design, and student experiences across New Jersey’s EPPs.
One way that EPPs in New Jersey weathered this transition was to lean on professional associations. In this blog post, we discuss the role of professional organizations, specifically the New Jersey Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (NJACTE), in helping to navigate this significant policy change. Our findings come from the NJACTE monthly meetings that we attended during the 2022-2023 academic year, as well as from the insights of Amy Kline (NJACTE President), who co-authors this blog post with us.
NJACTE is a professional organization for teacher and school leader preparation programs. It currently has 25 members from colleges and universities across New Jersey, including Rutgers University and Montclair State University, and it is affiliated with the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE). The organization meets monthly and hosts annual events, such as its Day of Assessment conference. NJACTE was supportive of the move away from edTPA. In an official statement in 2022, then-president Stacey Leftwich applauded the policy change and expressed that this change will help NJACTE members to better prepare NJ teachers and meet state staffing needs.
Co-constructing Greater Clarity
While the bill was signed into law in December 2022, the state did not release its official guidance to EPPs until June 2023. During this time, members of NJACTE had many questions about how the state would put this new policy into practice. In the midst of this uncertainty, NJACTE members reached out to each other to find greater clarity. Members, for example, asked each other about their understanding of state requirements and how they were planning to transition to a new performance-based assessment for students who were in the middle of their program.
Creating a Direct Communication Channel
In addition, NJACTE served as a communication channel between EPPs and the state. State officials visited monthly meetings to provide updated information about the policy change and to field questions from member institutions. Individual EPPs benefitted from direct contact with the state and, in return, the state was able to broadly and efficiently communicate its guidance. Much of this discussion focused on the state’s timeline to release its guidance.
While EPPs waited to hear about the state’s timeline and requirements, they utilized their connections through NJACTE to share ideas and resources regarding alternative performance-based assessments to replace edTPA. At NJACTE’s annual Day of Assessment conference, one panel featured speakers from New York State describing how they adapted their assessment approach after New York removed edTPA as a certification requirement. In addition, a subset of NJACTE institutions had previously developed and utilized a tool called the Clinical Competency Inventory that an NJACTE assessment subcommittee began discussing as a possible replacement for edTPA. Through such activities, we see how professional organizations can lead to common, shared responses to policy change across regions and institutions.
The ways that EPPs respond to New Jersey’s move away from edTPA will be shaped by professional associations such as NJACTE. NJACTE helped EPPs gain greater clarity about the changes they were experiencing, communicate with the state, and share resources to meet new mandates. Professional organizations provide stability as practitioners move over uncertain terrain.
Rachel Garver, Montclair State University
Drew Gitomer, Rutgers University
Emily Hodge, Montclair State University
Amy Kline, Seton Hall University