Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Performance Assessment for Teacher Candidate Learning: A Localized Policy Context

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Performance Assessment for Teacher Candidate Learning: A Localized Policy Context

Article excerpt

Introduction

Federal and state policies demand a growing list of accountability measures of educator preparation programs (Cochran-Smith, 2001). As part of these initiatives, policy makers, accrediting bodies, and teacher educators have resoundingly called for teacher candidate performance assessments. Assessments such as the Performance Assessment for California Teachers (PACT) and edTPA have the potential to authentically evaluate teacher candidate readiness to teach (e.g., Pecheone & Chung, 2006), produce high-quality data to inform ongoing program improvement (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 2010; Whittaker & Nelson, 2013), and support ongoing teacher learning (e.g., Chung, 2008). Furthermore, recent research has suggested that scores on teacher candidate performance assessments have been positively associated with K-12 student achievement (Darling-Hammond, Newton, & Wei, 2012; Goldhaber, Cowan, & Theobald, 2017). As a result, according to the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (2018), almost all states currently require teacher candidate performance assessments for one or more of these purposes.

When teacher candidate performance assessments are viewed as tools to support teacher learning, scholars have raised questions about policy contexts surrounding these assessments (e.g., Dover, Schultz, Smith, & Duggan, 2015; Reagan, Schram, McCurdy, Chang, & Evans, 2016). For example, Dover et al. (2015) argued that top-down, high-stakes policies surrounding these assessments risk limiting their potential to support candidate learning. Additionally, a growing body of research on the PACT and edTPA has suggested that the high-stakes nature of these assessments, combined with faculty buy-in or resistance to the assessment process, can affect the formative benefits of these assessments for teacher candidates and their programs (Chung, 2008; Ledwell & Oyler, 2016; Meuwissen & Choppin, 2015; Peck, Gallucci, & Sloan, 2010; Peck & McDonald, 2013; Ratner & Kolman, 2016). These concerns highlight the need for an examination of the policy contexts within which these performance assessments are implemented.

Within these broader contexts, scholars have also raised questions about how performance assessments are taken up by teacher candidates. For example, Soslau, Kotch-Jester, and Jorlin (2015) raised concerns about how teacher candidates interpret performance assessments like the edTPA and whether they view performance assessments as capturing all of the necessary skills and competencies of effective teaching. They called for further research to examine teacher candidates'perceptions of what performance assessments measure and whether and how performance assessments support teacher candidate learning. Along these lines, there is a growing body of research on teacher candidates' and graduates' perceptions of the PACT and edTPA within top-down, high-stakes policy contexts (e.g., Campbell et al., 2016; Meuwissen & Choppin, 2015). However, this is one of the first studies to examine teacher candidates' and graduates' perceptions of a performance assessment, the New Hampshire Teacher Candidate Assessment of Performance (NH TCAP), as a tool for learning in a locally developed and low-stakes context. Specifically, in this study, we address the following research questions:

What are teacher candidates'/graduates' perceptions of the value of the
NH TCAP as a tool for learning?
What are teacher candidates'/graduates' perceptions of what the NH TCAP
measures?
To what extent do candidates/graduates perceive alignment between what
is valuable about the NH TCAP and what they perceive is measured by the
NH TCAP?

In this article, we examine how teacher candidates and graduates take up a performance assessment located within a unique localized policy context. Through this analysis, we aim to shed light on whether and how teacher candidates' and graduates' perceptions of a performance assessment mediate their learning and assess their teaching practice. …

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