The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Tuesday October 4th

Student teaching stresses music education majors

<p>(Photo courtesy of Julia Duggan)</p><p><br/></p>

(Photo courtesy of Julia Duggan)

By Julia Duggan
Staff Writer

For a place known for music echoing in the hallways, the silence in the music building is eerie. While the underclassmen are in the building, they are in lectures so they cannot practice any music. Normally, the upperclassmen can be found in practice rooms in the basement, practicing in the morning, but that is not happening this semester.

The reason behind this silence is that most of the seniors are off at their student teaching placements. This semester is one of the most stressful semesters music education majors have encountered — and that was not the plan. The students received their placements in the spring semester instead of the fall due to Covid, which means they do not get a spring break. Students must balance both teaching and passing college classes, and they have only one chance to pass the final test — the edTPA — and become certified teachers. 

“Senior year coursework in conjunction with practicum and student teaching hours, as well as the basic skills and the music Praxis exam all form the application to apply for NJ K-12 certification for music teachers,” said Dr. Nicholas McBride, an assistant professor of choral music education at the College of who teaches several music education classes, including practicum and student teaching supervision. “Now the newest component is that they have to submit and pass edTPA as well.”

The tests music majors must pass are the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators in reading, writing, math, the Praxis subject test (for music ed majors, it is music theory), and edTPA (Educative Teacher Proficiency Assessment). 

The last test, edTPA, is the most complicated test to pass. Students completing the edTPA must send in lesson plans they have completed in their student teaching, as well as a video of them instructing students. To become eligible for student teaching, one must complete a practicum, which is a semester of observing teachers as they teach various age groups. The edTPA also has test questions that are designed specifically for each subject that could be taught in a K-12 classroom.

Normally, students complete their practicum by the spring of their junior year, complete student teaching and the edTPA the fall of their senior year. If they fail the edTPA, they would typically have one more semester to redo the parts they failed and still graduate on time. However, the senior music education majors could not complete their student teaching in the fall.

“Covid played a large factor in preparation for student teaching,” said Antonio Morra, a senior music education major. “There was a lot of uncertainty if we were going to be virtual or in person for most if not all the semester.”

Due to Covid-19, practicum was moved to the fall semester, which means student teaching had to be completed in the spring. This means that the seniors only have one chance to pass edTPA in the spring semester. If they fail, they have to redo the failed parts with an added semester.

 An unforeseen problem with completing student teaching during the spring is that the seniors do not get a spring break. During the College’s spring break, the seniors are still required to attend their student teaching placements, but do not attend their additional College classes. Then, during their placement spring breaks, the College seniors do not student teach, but still attend their College classes.

“(Practicum and student teaching) was more of a rushed process rather than the more spaced-out, normal way it would happen,” said Zack Lowman, a senior music education major.

The other problem students are facing is that the edTPA is a poorly constructed test, according to Dr. Stuart Carroll, associate professor of elementary and early childhood education at The College.

“I've never understood why any teacher educator would approve of this external test,” said Carroll, “(Having this test) says ‘oh we don't trust you to evaluate teacher candidates and to decide who to recommend for certification.”’

McBride agrees that there are better ways to evaluate one’s teaching ability.

“The issues with the EdTPA always were issues of the amount of time the assessment model takes to complete which is significant,” McBride said. “There are issues of inequity in terms of the cost that is associated with that. It is an expensive model to complete and if you happen to unfortunately be in a situation where you don’t pass a portion of the model you have to pay for a portion of that to be rescored.”

The students agree the tests they are required to pass are expensive.

“I believe that if student teaching was about just getting students equipped with the knowledge to teach in a classroom, is way more effective than having student teachers complete a $300 assessment about teaching on top of the $300 or more we are spending on Praxis core exams just to get a teaching certification,” said Morra.

The edTPA also hinders student teachers to spend more time on becoming comfortable in the teaching role. According to McBride, the edTPA has impacted the student seminar class that senior music ed students take. The goal of the class is to primarily focus on building one’s identity and skillset to help prepare new teachers for teaching in schools.

“A good part of the course has now had to focus on just the logistics of completing edTPA, which is significant, as well as the very large amounts of rubrics and models and everything they ask for so it’s a bit of a program eater,” McBride said.

Students are feeling the same way.

“I find myself teaching to the test, instead of simply learning how to teach for myself,” said Emily Obenauer, a senior music education major.

The concerns from both students and professors are finally being heard. The New Jersey State Senate just passed a bill removing the edTPA as a requirement for getting a teaching certificate. The bill is in the House for further hearings and a vote. The semester will end before the vote happens.

“The last thing we need to teach future teachers is how to be more compliant,” Carroll said. “We need teachers who are going to teach against the grain, who are going to be creative, be responsive. Then you give this test that's checking off a million boxes and doing these complicated tasks so all you're doing is rewarding people who do what they are told.”

Some students also believe the edTPA is not effective.

“EdTPA personally for me has little to no effect in getting me ready for my career, if anything it is just an excuse to have a ‘final assessment’ before we graduate in the spring,” Morra said. “It has a lot of problematic questions and phrases that are not relevant or conflict with the district and their communities.”

Both students and faculty have expressed that they like the structure of student teaching and the various mentors students have. The issue everyone has is forcing student teaching to produce the materials needed to complete the edTPA and pass it.

“(EdTPA) has created a lot of anxiety,” Carroll said. “You are never totally sure that you're doing it right. It always leaves you with this feeling of ambiguity.”


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