UFT President Michael Mulgrew is urging the de Blasio administration to reconsider the city’s flagship teacher training program after a union survey found that few graduates say their preparation was “excellent.”
Just 5 percent of teachers who answered the union’s survey said their training through the city’s Teaching Fellows program was “excellent,” compared to 21 percent of graduates of education schools.
And while 18 percent of education school graduates called their training “poor” or “fair,” that figure was nearly 50 percent for Teaching Fellows.
The findings were based on responses to a wide-ranging survey that the union sent to 2,500 randomly selected members. It received more than 800 responses, including from 81 Teaching Fellows and 636 teachers who came through traditional pathways. (The number of Teach for America teachers who answered the survey was too small to generate a finding, the union said.)
Since 2000, the Teaching Fellows program has placed new teachers, many entering their second careers, in high-need classrooms after a summer of intensive training. Then the fellows teach full-time while also working toward master’s degrees in traditional education schools. In contrast, graduates of education schools have previously committed to careers in the classroom and have had at least one full year of training, including a stint as a student teacher.
The Department of Education pays TNTP, a nonprofit group that also lobbies on teacher quality issues including in favor of evaluations that consider student test scores, to operate the Teaching Fellows program. Now, the union wants the city to reconsider that contract.
“Teaching in our schools is tough job, particularly if you feel that your training program didn’t really prepare you for the challenges of a New York City classroom,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “Given the millions of dollars that the Bloomberg administration spent on this contract, I hope the new leadership at Tweed makes it part of its review of all the Bloomberg-era deals, many of which have years to run.”
Noting that current and former fellows comprise more than 9,000 of the city’s teachers, a TNTP spokeswoman criticized the survey as offering “little insight about how the Fellows actually feel about their preparation.”
“A response rate below one percent is unlikely to be indicative of Fellows at-large or to stand up to scientific scrutiny,” said the spokeswoman, who also pointed to studies that showed the program’s graduates improved student learning more than those of traditional programs.
(Teaching Fellows make up 11 percent of the city’s teaching force and about 10 percent of the survey respondents. But the number of Teaching Fellows who responded to the survey reflected less than 1 percent of the 9,000 graduates of the program teaching in city schools right now.)
The finding comes as Chancellor Carmen Fariña is poised to reshape the ways that the city prepares new teachers. While Fariña has said little about teacher training since taking office at the beginning of the year, she has emphasized the value of experience in other areas, most notably setting a new experience requirement for school administrators. She has also pledged to build stronger relationships with local schools of education as the city adjusts its teacher hiring needs to reflect its pre-kindergarten expansion plan.
The survey was wide-ranging and covered the Common Core standards, teaching conditions, and education policy questions, according to a spokesman for the union, Dick Riley. Its aim was to establish a set of questions that could be asked of teachers annually, and more results will be published in the union’s newspaper, Riley said.