new regs

Some charter school teachers could become certified without a master’s under proposed new SUNY rules

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman

Teachers at some New York City charter schools may soon have a new way to become certified — without completing typical state requirements.

New regulations proposed Thursday by the SUNY Charter School Committee would allow teachers at charter schools authorized by SUNY to work without obtaining a master’s degree or passing certification exams. Instead, charter schools would be able to use their own training programs.

If the regulations are approved, they would mark a win for the city’s charter school advocates, who say networks have struggled to find and hire certified teachers and that the state’s certification rules don’t correlate with effective teaching. Currently, only 15 uncertified teachers are allowed in a given charter school.

“The charter schools have identified what they see as a serious gap in their ability to hire teachers and their ability to meet and comply with the current statute,” said Joseph Belluck, the charter school committee chair on the SUNY board.

These new regulations say, “If you’re getting better results for kids, we’re going to get out of your way,” said executive director Jenny Sedlis of the pro-charter StudentsFirstNY.

Not everyone agrees new rules are needed. The state’s education commissioner and Board of Regents chancellor have spoken out against them. The rules are also under fire from teachers unions, who argue they do a “grave disservice” to children by allowing unqualified teachers to enter charter school classrooms.

“What the charter industry is essentially saying is, ‘Give me a few weeks and I’ll authorize almost anyone we want to be a teacher,’” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said in a statement Wednesday.

The proposed regulations require prospective teachers to sit for 30 hours of instruction and log 100 hours of teaching experience under the supervision of an experienced teacher, far less than a typical prospective teacher would be required to complete before becoming certified under the current process.

The new certification would only apply to teachers in SUNY-authorized charter schools, which means if a teacher switched to a traditional public school or a charter overseen by another authorizer she would no longer be considered certified.

SUNY’s move comes amid a broader re-think of teacher certification processes in New York. In March, the state’s Board of Regents eliminated a controversial Academic Literacy Skills test, arguing that it unnecessarily burdened prospective teachers. Regents have also discussed changing the passing score on the edTPA, a test that requires prospective teachers to submit a video of themselves teaching.

But on Thursday, Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa and Commissioner MaryEllen Elia sent out a joint statement suggesting SUNY’s new regulations go too far.

“The Board of Regents and State Education Department are focused on ensuring that strong and effective teachers with the proper training, experience and credentials are educating New York’s children in every public school – including charter schools,” the statement read. “Our review of SUNY’s teacher certification proposal is cause for concern in maintaining this expectation.”

It’s also not completely clear whether SUNY has the authority to make these changes. SUNY officials say they do, thanks to vague language included in legislation at the end of the 2016 legislative session.

Last year, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said he took that language to mean certain charter schools could be exempt “from rules and regulations that were hampering innovative teaching and learning.” Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie fired back with a different interpretation, that charter schools do not have the authority to circumvent existing rules.

But on Thursday, Heastie did not seem inclined to put up a fight.

“The Assembly Majority has stated that we don’t necessarily agree with SUNY’s assessment on teacher certifications,” said Assembly spokeswoman Kerri Biche. “But that’s an interpretation for SUNY to determine.”

SUNY’s charter school committee voted Thursday to send the regulations out for public comment. That means an edited version will come up for official approval at a later date.

The New Chancellor

Tell us: What should the new chancellor, Richard Carranza, know about New York City schools?

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
A student at P.S. 69 Journey Prep in the Bronx paints a picture. The school uses a Reggio Emilia approach and is in the city's Showcase Schools program.

In a few short weeks, Richard Carranza will take over the nation’s largest school system as chancellor of New York City’s public schools.

Carranza, who has never before worked east of the Mississippi, will have to get up to speed quickly on a new city with unfamiliar challenges. The best people to guide him in this endeavor: New Yorkers who understand the city in its complexity.

So we want to hear from you: What does Carranza need to know about the city, its schools, and you to help him as he gets started April 2. Please fill out the survey below; we’ll collect your responses and share them with our readers and Carranza himself.

The deadline is March 23.

buses or bust?

Mayor Duggan says bus plan encourages cooperation. Detroit school board committee wants more details.

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Fourth-graders Kintan Surghani, left, and Rachel Anderson laugh out the school bus window at Mitchell Elementary School in Golden.

Detroit’s school superintendent is asking for more information about the mayor’s initiative to create a joint bus route for charter and district students after realizing the costs could be higher than the district anticipated.

District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a school board subcommittee Friday that he thought the original cost to the district was estimated to be around $25,000 total. Instead, he said it could cost the district roughly between $75,000 and a maximum of $125,000 for their five schools on the loop.

“I think there was a misunderstanding….” Vitti said. “I think this needs a deeper review…The understanding was that it would be $25,000 for all schools. Now, there are ongoing conversations about it being $15,000 to $25,000 for each individual school.”

The bus loop connecting charter and district schools was announced earlier this month by Mayor Mike Duggan as a way to draw kids back from the suburbs.

Duggan’s bus loop proposal is based on one that operates in Denver that would travel a circuit in certain neighborhoods, picking up students on designated street corners and dropping them off at both district and charter schools.

The bus routes — which Duggan said would be funded by philanthropy, the schools and the city — could even service afterschool programs that the schools on the bus route could work together to create.

In concept, the finance committee was not opposed to the idea. But despite two-thirds of the cost being covered and splitting the remaining third with charters, they were worried enough about the increased costs that they voted not to recommend approval of the agreement to the full board.  

Vitti said when he saw the draft plan, the higher price made him question whether the loop would be worth it.

“If it was $25,000, it would be an easier decision,” he said.

To better understand the costs and benefits and to ultimately decide, Vitti said he needs more data, which will take a few weeks. 

Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, said the district’s hesitation was a sign they were performing their due diligence before agreeing to the plan.

“I’m not at all deterred by this,” Wiley said. She said the district, charters, and city officials have met twice, and are “working in the same direction, so that we eliminate as many barriers as we can.”

Duggan told a crowd earlier this month at the State of the City address that the bus loop was an effort to grab the city’s children – some 32,500 – back from suburban schools.

Transportation is often cited as one of the reasons children leave the city’s schools and go to other districts, and charter leaders have said they support the bus loop because they believe it will make it easier for students to attend their schools.

But some board members had doubts that the bus loop would be enough to bring those kids back, and were concerned about giving charters an advantage in their competition against the district to increase enrollment.

“I don’t know if transportation would be why these parents send their kids outside of the district,” Angelique Peterson-Mayberry said. “If we could find out some of the reasons why, it would add to the validity” of implementing the bus loop.

Board member LaMar Lemmons echoed other members’ concerns on the impact of the transportation plan, and said many parents left the district because of the poor quality of schools under emergency management, not transportation.

“All those years in emergency management, that drove parents to seek alternatives, as well as charters,” he said. “I’m hesitant to form an unholy alliance with the charters for something like this.”