5 Tips For Alternate Route Candidates Preparing For edTPA

Alternate route candidates training in New Jersey are required to complete edTPA, a State-mandated teaching performance assessment, in order to receive their teaching certification. edTPA requirements impact alternate route teachers entering classrooms across New Jersey during and after the 2017-18 SY. edTPA was designed to replace student-teacher evaluations and better ensure that teacher candidates are equally prepared to enter the classroom. Though the edTPA process is difficult, it provides alternate route candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate their readiness to teach and engage in structured self-evaluation. 

Our latest blog series is designed to help alternate route candidates understand and meet the requirements of edTPA. Consider these 5 tips when preparing for edTPA.

Read the edTPA handbook in its entirety

Dissect edTPA’s handbook prior to beginning to develop your portfolio. Highlight and organize information from the handbook that provides guidance, as to “how” and “when” you will complete each requirement area. While reading edTPA’s handbook you can concurrently draft an action plan that includes a checklist of required materials, and timeline to ensure you stay on track. 

Practice time management

edTPA submissions must contain lesson plans, student work samples, classroom videos, and instructional commentary. This can not be completed in one sitting. The instructional commentary alone adds up to upwards of 40 pages of writing. Commit to dedicating a few hours of focused work on your edTPA portfolio at least once a week to ensure you aren’t faced with the (costly) consequences of submitting an incomplete portfolio.

Familiarize yourself with edTPA’s portfolio management platform

Rutgers Alternate Route’s unique inclusion of exercises that encourage digital literacy put our candidates at an advantage. When it comes to navigating the edTPA process, candidates must leverage digital platforms and video recording tools in order to prepare, request and receive feedback on, and submit their assessment. edTPA partners with a handful of platform providers. Before gaining access to any of them you must first register as a ‘Candidate’ on the edTPA website. Rutgers Alternate Route’s candidates are encouraged to sign up on LiveText’s ePortfolio System. This will be the system that you’ll use to build your portfolio, and submit your evidence for scoring. 

Visit LiveText before the school year starts to minimize your stress levels when it’s time for you to begin building your portfolio. Practice completing these tasks:

  • Uploading documents (which types of files are allowed?)
  • Downloading and requesting commentary 
  • Typing notes into documents
  • Uploading videos (what kind of video files can be uploaded? Which does your camcorder/recorder support?)

(Consult this document for detailed instructions and visualizations.)

Enhancing the quality of your evidence and commentary

Commentary that addresses all parts of the question, references video evidence, elaborates on video clips and maximizes page count are more likely to earn high scores based on edTPA’s instruction rubric. Your evidence is scored based on five dimensions of teaching:

  • Planning Instruction and Assessment: Use lesson plans, materials, student assignments and assessments to demonstrate content standard alignment, and support instructional differentiation
  • Instructing and Engaging Students in Learning: Practice monitoring student response and pedagogical strategies, reflect on student response and subject matter understanding
  • Assessing Student Learning: Analyze student learning patterns, summarize classroom performance, identify focus students and explain feedback
  • Analysis of Teaching Effectiveness: Justify and analyze classroom lesson plans, instruction and assessment results
  • Academic Language Development: Use work samples and/or video recordings to explain how students demonstrate academic language

Your commentary should demonstrate an awareness of student’s unique needs and provide evidence of your ability to differentiate instruction. When preparing to write your commentary, collect pertinent background information on your students, such as how many of them are able to complete a certain task. This will provide you with more context when explaining how and why your instruction accommodates students at varied levels of understanding.

Know which scoring phase you fall under

Your assessment scores may or may not impact your ability to gain a Standard Teaching License depending on when you complete your edTPA portfolio submission.
Certificate of Eligibility (CE) holding alternate route candidates who began teaching this upcoming 2017-18 school year (SY) and complete edTPA in the same school year aren’t faced with pass/fail requirements. Completing the assessment is the only requirement for gaining a NJ Standard Teaching License. 
Candidates who plan on completing edTPA during the 2018-2019 SY must gain a score that’s at least one standard error of measurement below the national recommendation in order to gain their Standard Teaching License. 
Alternate route teachers who complete the requirements of edTPA during the 2019-20 SY will be required to achieve a passing score yet to be determined by the New Jersey Department of Education.

Final Words

Rutgers Alternate Route’s teacher training program is committed to ensuring the successful licensure of our candidates. Our curriculum has been refined to align with the scoring elements of edTPA, providing ample opportunity for candidates to align their thinking and practice with the skills that are emphasized in edTPA. Our program will also continue to publish informative guidance on edTPA through our blog. Teacher candidates who know what to expect, and are properly supported throughout the process are less likely to feel intimidated and overwhelmed when preparing for edTPA. In the coming months, our program will make best practices on preparing for edTPA, guides on changing requirements and instructional how-to’s publicly available. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed.



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Heather Ngoma

Heather Ngoma has over 20 years experience collaborating with educators across New Jersey to drive education innovation. She currently serves as the Director of Rutgers University's Alternate Route Teacher Training Program at the Center for Effective School Practices, a program which helps career changers, recent college graduates and other aspiring education professionals become licensed teachers in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter @heatherngoma.