teacher certification

SUNY revises controversial proposal to let some New York charter schools certify their own teachers

PHOTO: Jaclyn Zubrzycki

A state group that oversees some New York charter schools has revised a hotly contested proposal to let its schools certify their own teachers ahead of Wednesday’s vote, according to an updated proposal.

Though the basic elements of the original proposal remains in tact, prospective teachers will now be required to sit for significantly more hours of instruction (though the amount of time they must spend practice teaching has been reduced), and they now must pass one of the exams used in the traditional certification process or an equivalent test.

“We appreciated all of the comments we received and we made significant changes based on those comments,” Joseph Belluck, the head of SUNY’s charter school committee, which will vote on the proposal next week. “We feel like we now have a proposed set of regulations that accomplish our goal of putting highly qualified teachers in our charter schools.”

SUNY, the charter authorizer that created the proposal, is attempting to beef up the certification rules following intense pushback by a host of critics, including the state education department and teachers unions.

Critics think the proposal is “insulting” to the teaching profession and will flood classrooms with unqualified teachers, while SUNY officials say the proposal is necessary to fill hiring gaps at charter schools.

The original proposal required prospective teachers to sit for 30 hours of instruction and then practice 100 hours of teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher, far less than the requirements for a traditional school teacher.

The limited training came under attack, even drawing uncharacteristic ire from State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who said, “I could go into a fast food restaurant and get more training than that.”

In the revised proposal, prospective teachers will be required to sit for 160 hours of classroom instruction, which amounts to about a month of full-time work. However, the time required for teaching practice will drop from 100 to 40 hours.

Belluck said the changes were made to align with already existing alternative certification paths that allow some prospective teachers to circumvent traditional requirements. Though the hours of field experience and instruction in SUNY’s proposal mirror an existing alternative route, the proposal does not have all the same requirements. For instance, SUNY’s plan does require aspiring teachers to be enrolled in a college’s teacher education program.

The new regulations ask prospective teachers to take the Educating All Students test, an exam designed to test strategies for teaching students with special needs, including English learners and students with disabilities. (If prospective teachers don’t take that exam, they must take a different one approved by SUNY that has “all required elements” of the test.)

Prospective teachers in New York are typically required to take three certification exams, including a content test and the controversial edTPA, which requires a portfolio of work.

Critics of the traditional teacher certification process say it is out of touch with the real-life demands of teaching and unnecessarily weeds out prospective teachers. Across the country, teacher certification requirements also disproportionately shut out black and Hispanic prospective teachers, a Chalkbeat analysis found.

Several charter school operators think they can put together a better system that focuses on the practical aspects of teaching. But whether this proposal gives them too much leeway to make their own rules is likely to be debated.

In the original proposal, the teacher certification would only count at SUNY-authorized charter schools, meaning teachers would not be able to switch to district schools and even some other charter schools without additional training. Some warned this would create “two tiers of certification,” trapping teachers in certain charter schools.

The new proposal is still only valid at SUNY-authorized schools, but Belluck hopes that it will be easier for teachers who are certified this way to gain full state certification since the new regulations are more closely aligned with the state’s certification process.

The draft revisions also allow charter schools to contract with higher education institutions to create their training programs and require schools to explain their need for an alternative certification path. (Currently, only 15 uncertified teachers are allowed in a given charter school.) It also stipulates that charter schools must meet certain academic benchmarks before they can apply to train their own teachers.

SUNY’s charter school committee is expected to vote on the revised proposal at their meeting on Wednesday.

Top teacher

Franklin educator is Tennessee’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year

PHOTO: TDOE
Melissa Miller leads her students in a learning game at Franklin Elementary School in Franklin Special School District in Williamson County. Miller is Tennessee's 2018-19 Teacher of the Year.

A first-grade teacher in Franklin is Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year.

Melissa Miller

Melissa Miller, who works at Franklin Elementary School, received the 2018-19 honor for excellence in the classroom Thursday evening during a banquet in Nashville.

A teacher for 19 years, she is National Board Certified, serves as a team leader and mentor at her school, and trains her colleagues on curriculum and technology in Franklin’s city school district in Williamson County, just south of Nashville. She will represent Tennessee in national competition and serve on several working groups with the state education department.

Miller was one of nine finalists statewide for the award, which has been presented to a Tennessee public school teacher most every year since 1960 as a way to promote respect and appreciation for the profession. The finalists were chosen based on scoring from a panel of educators; three regional winners were narrowed down following interviews.

In addition to Miller, who also won in Middle Tennessee, the state recognized Lori Farley, a media specialist at North City Elementary School in Athens City Schools, in East Tennessee. Michael Robinson, a high school social studies teacher at Houston High School in Germantown Municipal School District, was this year’s top teacher in West Tennessee.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen praised the finalists for leading their students to impressive academic gains and growth. She noted that “teachers are the single most important factor in improving students’ achievement.”

Last year’s statewide winner was Cicely Woodard, an eighth-grade math teacher in Nashville who has since moved to a middle school in the same Franklin district as Miller.

You can learn more about Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year program here.

PSA

Have you thought about teaching? Colorado teachers union sells the profession in new videos

PHOTO: Colorado Education Association

There are a lot of factors contributing to a shortage of teachers in Colorado and around the nation. One of them — with potentially long-term consequences — is that far fewer people are enrolling in or graduating from teacher preparation programs. A recent poll found that more than half of respondents, citing low pay and lack of respect, would not want their children to become teachers.

Earlier this year, one middle school teacher told Chalkbeat the state should invest in public service announcements to promote the profession.

“We could use some resources in Colorado to highlight how attractive teaching is, for the intangibles,” said Mary Hulac, who teaches English in the Greeley-Evans district. “I tell my students every day, this is the best job.

“You learn every day as a teacher. I’m a language arts teacher. When we talk about themes, and I hear a story through another student’s perspective, it’s always exciting and new.”

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has brought some resources to help get that message out with a series of videos aimed at “up-and-coming professionals deciding on a career.” A spokesman declined to say how much the union was putting into the ad buy.

The theme of the ads is: “Change a life. Change the world.”

“Nowhere but in the education profession can a person have such a profound impact on the lives of students,” association President Amie Baca-Oehlert said in a press release. “We want to show that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession.”

As the union notes, “Opportunities to teach in Colorado are abundant.”

One of the ads features 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year Christina Randle.

“Are you ready to be a positive role model for kids and have a direct impact on the future?” Randle asks.

Another features an education student who was inspired by her own teachers and a 20-year veteran talking about how much she loves her job.

How would you sell the teaching profession to someone considering their career options? Let us know at co.tips@chalkbeat.org.