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edTPA is a process. There are no shortcuts to doing well and you can expect it to take up to 25 or more hours to ensure you’ve done everything you can to pass. Many people are stressed out or intimidated by the large portfolio style project that carries a hefty $300 fee but I want to share some tips, information, and examples to make it as easy as possible. Reading this will hopefully be worth the time and again there are no shortcuts so don’t skip these!
Below are the tips and recommendations I have for the preparation, each section, and submitting. There is an additional page HERE where you can find examples of my own edTPA submissions.
You know yourself the best and don’t forget that. Some people like myself like to do it all right away to get it over with. Some of my classmates took their time over the course of two or three semesters and some even waited until after we graduated. So far, we’ve ALL passed! In fact, I have not heard of a person failing. Remember to find your state’s “cut score” online; in New York it is an average of 2.73 per section (total of 45 for secondary and 49 for elementary).
The best things I can say is know your handbook. Start here. I can’t emphasize this enough. Read it. Highlight it. Write yourself notes. And don’t forget each subject area has a different set of requirements so don’t pair up with your friend in ELA or Science and expect the same thing but make sure someone proofreads it at least once! Make sure you’re thinking of a mini-unit and not three random lessons that have nothing to do with each other.
Once you understand the exact requirements of your certification area planning becomes 100 times easier!
Make sure you have: A working camera/tablet or recording device, permission slips, video editing software (I recommend Windows Movie Maker – it’s free!), $300 or (6,000 soda cans) and I highly recommend having Microsoft Publisher.
Remember the purpose of edTPA – they want to make sure you can put together a cohesive unit and show you can construct a lesson that is thoroughly planned on research based theory and contains assessment and differentiation for inclusive classrooms. Once you’re done you should ask yourself if you’d want this person to be a teacher if you were reviewing their portfolio.
Be specific and draw a clear connection between your plans and materials with your commentary from each section. Be thorough and avoid vague descriptions. Why is your decision professionally appropriate for your classroom?
The only real “advice” I found on these was that high scoring plans clearly show what students are doing and what teachers are doing at the same time. Everyone has a different style of lesson plan. The one I show on this site is the one I use every day and it is wildly different from the one I submitted to edTPA that is found HERE. The idea is to show you can plan a cohesive lesson that is more than just busy work. The lesson should be one that is engaging, informative, and useful for future planning. edTPA wants to see that your plans build off of one another but can also be amended based on data from assessments.
SECTION I: CONTEXT FOR LEARNING
Only include what is necessary or could be relevant to your edTPA decisions. If you can’t explain how 22 students being brunettes in your classroom affects your planning don’t include it! Think about age, race, ethnic background, religions, economic status, IEP, 504 plans, disabilities, gifted students, etc.
I was able to obtain a “school profile” from my district that helped in this area.
Again, be as specific as possible – if your district is low income, state how much the median/mean income is in the area, how many students are on free/reduced lunch plans, and compare it to the state averages. Make use of public information.
SECTION II: PLANNING COMMENTARY
Again, be specific and draw the connections for the people at Pearson. Make them obvious by leading them to places in your supports and lesson plans using “codes.” An example would be “In planning material 1.1 from the lesson focusing on the Civil War…” Many people ask “how do I show this is theory based planning?” My recommendation is to make sure any theories are clearly explained. Name dropping is not going to help. If you’re going to mention Vygotsky you better say where it applies in your lesson, why it applies, and what the theory is. Don’t assume Pearson knows! State the obvious when needed. Go outside the box a little bit too. I included modern theories and supportive examples that are (hopefully) clearly linked to my commentary and planning.
SECTION III: INSTRUCTING AND ENGAGING
Make sure you double check your handbook. Different content areas ask for different observable goals in the videos.
Tape everything from your segment. I ended up with about 16 videos (4 days, 4 sections) and this was great because I had more to choose from. Keep in mind your videos must come from the same class section and cannot be a mixture. This allowed me to choose my best clips and if I had any technical errors my edTPA wouldn’t be in shambles. This section is where it becomes very important to critically analyze the words Pearson is giving in the task sections. This is also an area where you’re free to reflect on your own methods and how the lesson was executed. They don’t expect everything to be perfect – the situation should be as authentic as possible and good teachers will change and adapt each time a lesson is taught. Show them you can do this too! Make sure to check out the tips on how to submit video clips below. This can be tricky and if you have questions shoot me a message anytime.
SECTION IV: ASSESSING LEARNING
This section directly relates to the standards provided within your state so make sure they are provided exactly the way they’d be seen. Most schools also utilize Common Core Standards and in New York there are also the 6 new shifts to consider. In this section it is important to make claims based on the authentic results of student assessments from the lesson segments. When writing your commentary be sure to communicate where Pearson should be seeing connections and lead them to specific examples you’ve provided. Don’t be afraid to share your grading rubrics either. As always, when using research based theories be very thorough and descriptive but double check to make sure it relates to what you have done.
*Tip – Double check to make sure all of your materials are clearly labelled the way Pearson asks you to. Also make sure you materials and supports match the way you discussed them throughout the commentary.
Videos: Do not expect submission to be quick. Keep in mind videos need to be cut down to approximately 10MB to be uploaded to Pearson edTPA. Most cameras and tablets record in HD now and a single original mp4 or .mov file will start at nearly 1GB. I used Windows Movie Maker Live to edit my videos for free. Editing each video takes about 30-40 minutes as your computer must “prepare” the video for cutting then you can select the beginning and end of your clips. Next I had to reformat my video into a lower resolution and Windows Movie Maker made this simple as it allowed me to select an option under the “Save As” area that told me it would be turned into a file size that fit my needs. Make sure you double check your final videos for sound and cut times.
Planning Materials: I showcased a variety of my planning materials. Slides from PowerPoints, formative assessment materials, guided notes, homework/classwork, etc. were included. However, edTPA only wants ONE file so I found it easiest to convert my items into Microsoft Publisher files. It did involve a little bit of reformatting but in the end it made it easier because I was able to combine multiple media formats into one file that was turned into a .pdf.
I actually submitted all of my documents in .pdf format to avoid any formatting issues through Pearson.
Student Feedback: Handbooks may vary on the way they want feedback. I included 3 samples and made sure one was from an exemplar student, an “at level” student, and a struggling student. edTPA may also like to see a sample from a student that is classified with an IEP or 504. Feedback can be written directly on the assessment or on a separate sheet of paper such as a rubric that would be given back to the student. Some handbooks even give the option of submitting a video clip that shows oral feedback but I chose to use my 4th video submission to showcase my students’ discourse skills from the mini-unit.
Once you’re done expect a few weeks for your results. In NY the cut score isn’t too rigorous in my opinion. Strive for fives but remember your main goal is to pass and again, I have not heard of anyone failing as of today!