Teaching performance assessments strengthen instruction and improve student outcomes; let’s not change that  

Kindergarten teacher

A kindergarten teacher helps a girl and boy with a class activity.

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

Learning the art and skill of effective instruction starts long before a teacher’s first job in the classroom. Aspiring educators begin honing their craft in preparation programs that tie clinical practice to coursework on best teaching methods, including how to teach students to read.  

Since 2002, this process has been reinforced in California by an embedded teaching performance assessment (TPA) as a key measure of professional readiness. A TPA directs teacher preparation candidates to provide evidence of their teaching knowledge and skills. This is accomplished through classroom videos, lesson plans, student work, and analysis of teaching and learning for English learners, students with disabilities, and the full range of students they are teaching.  

The tasks TPAs require are the core work of teaching. Studies over the last two decades show that TPAs are educative for candidates and predictive of future effectiveness. Furthermore, the feedback they provide focuses educator preparation programs on preparing teachers in ways that are formative and learner-centered.  

Thus, it is deeply concerning to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and many in the field that this rich measure of teacher preparation would be eliminated with the passage of Senate Bill 1263, which would repeal all requirements relating to teaching performance assessments, including that future teachers demonstrate their readiness to teach reading.   

The TPA is California’s only remaining required measure of whether a prospective teacher is ready to teach prior to earning a credential. All other exam requirements for a teaching credential have been modified by the Legislature to allow multiple ways for future teachers to demonstrate basic skills and subject matter competence. These legislative actions have been supported in large part by the requirement that student teachers complete a TPA to earn a credential. 

Elimination of the TPA would leave California with no consistent standard for ensuring that all teachers are ready to teach before entering our classrooms. We would join only a handful of states that have no capstone assessment for entry into teaching. Passage of SB 1263 would also result in the state losing a key indicator of how well educator preparation programs are preparing a diverse and effective teaching force. 

In 2021, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 488, which revamped how teacher preparation programs will instruct candidates to teach reading. As a result, the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) is slated to be replaced by a newly designed literacy performance assessment currently being piloted for incorporation into the TPA by July 1, 2025.  

Participant feedback on the new literacy performance assessment (LPA) piloted this spring is optimistic. One teaching candidate shared that the LPA “was a vital learning experience when it comes to implementing foundational literacy instruction with young learners. I enjoyed that it’s a more hands-on experience for the students to be engaged and promotes full participation of the student and teacher.” A teacher said that the LPA “provided multiple opportunities for my candidate to reflect and observe exceptional moments as well as missed opportunities in the lesson. It encouraged conversations about how to implement direct, explicit instruction.” A university faculty member observed that the LPA pilot “has been a learning experience for the candidates and the program. … It shows what we are doing well and what other areas we need to create or enhance to support our candidates’ knowledge and skills in teaching literacy.” 

If the TPA and RICA are eliminated, California will no longer have an assessment of new teachers’ capacity to teach reading, and we will have lost a valuable tool that can inform programs about how they can improve. 

Recent Learning Policy Institute research demonstrates that TPA scores reflect the quality of teacher preparation candidates have received in terms of clinical support and preparation to teach reading and math (for elementary and special education candidates). Most programs support their candidates well. The study found that nearly two-thirds of teacher preparation programs had more than 90% of their candidates pass a TPA and showed no significant differences in passing rates by race and ethnicity. 

As Aaron Davis, teacher induction director at William S. Hart Union High School District in Santa Clarita noted, “The TPA serves a very necessary purpose in creating a sound foundation for which a new teacher’s practice can grow with the mindset of having a positive impact on every student.”  While the TPA requires time and effort to implement, it ensures that new teachers are prepared to start their career as an educator on day one, he said. 

While the pandemic made it challenging to administer TPAs, most programs now ensure that more than 90% of candidates pass the TPA. The CTC is working with the small number of programs that struggle to adequately support their candidates.  

The elimination of TPAs would unravel decades of progress to focus teacher education on clinical practice and ensure programs consistently meet standards for preparing teachers who are ready to teach.  

Rather than eliminate the last common measure of an aspiring teacher’s preparedness, we recommend the Legislature uphold the future of a well-prepared teacher workforce by supporting the commission’s commitment to continuously review and update the TPA and to work to support program improvement. Doing so will maintain the quality and effectiveness of new teachers as they embark on their journey to provide the most effective and equitable learning experiences for all students. 


Marquita Grenot-Scheyer is chair of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and professor emeritus in the College of Education at California State University, Long Beach.

Mary Vixie Sandy is executive director of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, an agency that awards over 250,000 credential documents per year and accredits more than 250 colleges, universities, and local education agencies offering educator preparation programs.

The opinions in this commentary are those of the authors. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.

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