race to the race to the top

State plans to link teacher certification to student performance

The New York State Board of Regents wants to certify new teachers based on their students’ academic achievement in their first two years of teaching, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Education Commissioner David Steiner announced today.

The proposal came as part of a plan to overhaul the way teachers are trained and placed in classrooms that state officials hope will help them win competitive federal Race to the Top grant money.

Under the plan, a new teacher would also face a tougher set of tests and must prove to the state that he or she is ready to enter the classroom before receiving their initial certification, possibly through portfolios of lesson plans and videotaped teaching sessions.

“Instead of just a paper and pencil test, instead of looking simply at course credits, instead of waiting until the last semester for a  formal experience of student teaching that has a different caliber of qualities associated with it, we want to use these performance assessments to ensure that our candidates for teaching have the skills that matter,” Steiner said in a press conference today.

The proposed changes to teacher training also include an expansion of alternative teacher certification programs, allowing a wider variety of organizations to train new teachers.

In an interview last week, Tisch described the plan as a way to “break down the barriers between academia and practice” in teacher training. Traditional, university-based teacher training programs have been criticized, most notably by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, as being out-of-touch with actual skills teachers need to succeed in the classroom.

Tisch and Steiner said today that they would like to begin altering the assessments required for initial certification now, but that a program to link student performance to professional certification may take years to develop. The state will need to first develop a more rigorous data system before linking the performance of new teachers back to their students, Steiner said, though the state is already at work building such a system. Steiner also said that a request for proposals for new teacher certification programs will be released before the end of this year.

The speed at which the program is implemented will also depend heavily on funding. Tisch and Steiner are hoping that the proposals will help the state win Race to the Top funds, which could then be used to hasten the development of the new certification systems.

Here is the full set of proposals considered by the Board of Regents today:

NY State Board of Regents teacher training recommendations

weekend update

How the education world is reacting to racist violence in Charlottesville — and to Trump’s muted response

PHOTO: Andrew Dallos/Flickr
A rally against hate in Tarrytown, New York, responds to the violence in Charlottesville.

For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.

Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.

And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.

One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:

DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:

Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:

The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.

“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.

Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:

Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.

We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below. 

Betsy DeVos

‘Underperformer,’ ‘bully,’ and a ‘mermaid with legs’: NYMag story slams Betsy DeVos

PHOTO: New York Magazine
A drawing of DeVos commissioned by an 8-year-old starts the New York Magazine article.

A new article detailing Betsy DeVos’s first six months as U.S. education secretary concludes that she’s “a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

That’s just one of several brutal critiques of DeVos’s leadership and effectiveness in the New York Magazine story, by Lisa Miller, who has previously covered efforts to overhaul high schools, New York City’s pre-kindergarten push, and the apocalypse. Here are some highlights:

  • Bipartisan befuddlement: The story summarizes the left’s well known opposition to DeVos’s school choice agenda. But her political allies also say she’s making unnecessary mistakes: “Most mystifying to those invested in her success is why DeVos hasn’t found herself some better help.”
  • A friend’s defense: DeVos is “muzzled” by the Trump administration, said her friend and frequent defender Kevin Chavous, a school choice activist.
  • The department reacts: “More often than not press statements are being written by career staff,” a spokesperson told Miller, rejecting claims that politics are trumping policy concerns.
  • D.C. colleagues speak: “When you talk to her, it’s a blank stare,” said Charles Doolittle, who quit the Department of Education in June. A current education department employee says: “It’s not clear that the secretary is making decisions or really capable of understanding the elements of a good decision.”
  • Kids critique: The magazine commissioned six portraits of DeVos drawn by grade-schoolers.
  • Special Olympics flip-flop: DeVos started out saying she was proud to partner with the athletics competition for people with disabilities — and quickly turned to defending a budget that cuts the program’s funding.
  • In conclusion: DeVos is an underperformer,” a “bully” and “ineffective,” Miller found based on her reporting.

Updated (July 31, 2017): A U.S. Education Department spokesperson responded to our request for comment, calling the New York Magazine story “nothing more than a hit piece.” Said Liz Hill: “The magazine clearly displayed its agenda by writing a story based on largely disputed claims and then leaving out of the article the many voices of those who are excited by the Secretary’s leadership and determination to improve education in America.”