Student teachers in Wash. struggle to gain certification amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Olivia Alvord, Staff Writer

Many student teachers set up classroom spaces within their homes to help students adjust to online learning. Photo retrieved from Twitter.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things this year, from sports and concerts to restaurant dining and movie theaters. COVID also brought a big change to school learning, when school districts moved classrooms online, forcing many parents to stay home and become their child’s teacher via e-learning. This move also changed the plans of classroom teachers and students going to school to become teachers. 

In Wash. state, students hoping to become teachers work through a rigorous process of higher education. After completing all the necessary teaching classes and collecting a host of experiences in the classroom setting, teacher candidates move on to complete their 450-hour student teaching internship before they can receive their degree and certification. During the internship phase, student teachers not only complete their unpaid, full-time training, but also an assessment known as the ed Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) to get their certification. 

According to the edTPA website, the test is described as a “performance-based, subject-specific assessment and support system which is used to emphasize, measure and support the skills and knowledge that all teachers need from Day one in the classroom. The assessment features a common architecture focused on three tasks: Planning, Instruction, and Assessment.” Wash. is among 41 states that require aspiring teachers to pass the edTPA to gain full certification.

Student teachers in the middle of working on their edTPA assessments were in classrooms across the nation, chipping away at their 450-hour internship, when schools moved to the virtual learning environment last spring. 

Fortunately for Saint Martin’s students, the College of Education and Counseling has always encouraged student teachers to complete their edTPA early, but not all Wash. students were so fortunate. Hundreds of student teachers across the state were told that although they were not able to complete their edTPA due to the pandemic, they would eventually have to complete it once they were back in their own classroom, which made the situation even more difficult. 

Normally, one would complete their edTPA within the classroom in which they student taught, where they would be working with a mentor teacher and not solely responsible for all the students. With this new regulation, completing the edTPA would be even more of a struggle.

In disagreement with this situation, several graduate students from the University of Washington (UW) Tacoma took it upon themselves to speak up about the issues. In Aug, around 30 student teachers wrote letters to Gov. Inslee to detail their concerns about completing their edTPA and gaining full certification. Some of the letters even connected the certification issue at hand to the success of the Wash. Supreme Court’s decision to waive the bar exam for new lawyers amidst the COVID-19 crisis. 

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, one letter read, “New lawyers have received similar relief. New teachers deserve no less. We respectfully urge you to do so without delay to mitigate the ongoing damage teacher candidates are experiencing.”

According to Law News, in June “Wash. became the second jurisdiction to adopt an emergency diploma privilege amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This jurisdiction allowed students from American Bar Association accredited law schools who were registered for the bar exam in either July or September, to be licensed in the state without passing the test.” This pardon also had no repercussions in regard to retakes once in the position or when the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, unlike with new teachers.

It has been nearly a month since UW students reached out to Wash. government officials and there have not been any further developments on the situation. However, administrators are doing everything in their power to ensure that this fall’s student teachers are able to complete their edTPA and gain certification without the previous hassles. 

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