May 16, 2020
Dear Georgia Professional Standards Commission,
I am a Black male educator, part of the 2% of black male educators in schools. My story made national headlines as I highlighted why I left school administration to return to the classroom to serve as a special education teacher. It was a hard decision; however, after being put in a position to expel and suspend more children of color instead of pushing them towards academic success, I decided moving back to the classroom was the best way to support Georgia’s most vulnerable children.
I have been an educator in Georgia for the past 16 years, and I am currently serving the families of students who have special needs. Our community in Forest Park, Georgia has the highest number of youth who will not graduate from high school.
This year, I will also be a part of the growing number of teachers who are unfortunately leaving Georgia classrooms. Unlike many of my education colleagues who are leaving the field due to dissatisfaction with compensation and how teachers are treated, I am leaving education because of a barrier to completing the edTPA program and the waiver that is required to be a teacher in this state.
As a veteran teacher, I needed to fulfill the state’s requirement to complete a certification program as I re-entered the classroom. My work with edTPA, a teacher certification program that is offered through the alternative route, is supposed to mirror the day-to-day work and craft of teaching and requires me to complete professional development. Not only did I take a severe pay cut by returning to the classroom, I couldn’t afford to pay for the edTPA program without working two part-time jobs. Beyond the cumbersome workload of a teacher, there are also at least four hours of collaborative planning, shadowing other teachers, and data collection that teachers are already completing daily in our schools.
In our classrooms, we are already doing important work to ensure students succeed. But the edTPA programs and waiver processes pose a barrier to teachers like myself who are working in critical areas of education serving our most at-risk students.
My school’s curriculum is online, and this instruction style produces and tracks our data. In contrast, the edTPA program has specific templates that don’t acknowledge the variety of nontraditional schools and education programs. Educators from a nontraditional background are required to complete double the amount of work as other program participants because we are asked to revert back to, and implement practices that our schools are no longer using.
I am petitioning you to remove barriers that are forcing dedicated teachers from diverse backgrounds, like myself, out of classrooms in Georgia like edTPA and the waivers. I am sharing my story and encouraging others to support the pending decision to remove the edTPA program and waiver requirements beginning July 2020.
Please sign the petition here and share via email or on your social media sites.
We must reconsider the demands of edTPA programs as they cause more stress on teachers and create redundancies that challenge the value of our work. These programs draw away the time and focus of teachers from the practitioner’s craft of teaching, for the sake of paperwork to gain credentials. Many of the lessons in edTPA programs don’t serve veteran teachers well, as most of us are returning to the classroom now with areas of expertise.
EdTPA should be considered for removal as a requirement for teacher certification because it’s more a barrier for teachers financially as well as the additional stress added due to the paperwork required. Also, for schools that have an online curriculum, many of the edTPA modules don’t fit the innovation of their programs thus requiring these teachers to create lessons/curriculum maps/etc. in a different format than what their schools are using.
In the midst of a national and local teacher shortage, many veteran teachers are being forced out of classrooms, not because they aren’t producing or performing quality lessons, but because of the time restrictions and policies around edTPA programs and waivers. I truly hope that you consider removing waivers and edTPA programs because it does not benefit Georgia’s students to have excellent educators forced out of the classroom.
Working for Georgia’s children,
Jason B. Allen
Special Education Teacher
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.