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SUNY faces legal threat against proposal to let charter schools certify their teachers

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Students in a Success Academy classroom in 2017.

Critics of a controversial proposal to allow certain charter schools to certify their own teachers threatened legal action on Tuesday if officials vote to approve the plan at their meeting Wednesday morning.

The Alliance for Quality Education, a teachers union-backed group that fiercely opposes the proposal, claims that officials at the State University of New York would be violating state law if they approve the proposal without giving the public a chance to weigh in on changes to the proposal that were made public on Sunday.

The revisions include increasing the hours of instruction that prospective teachers must receive from 30 to 160, decreasing required hours of teaching practice from 100 to 40, and mandating that aspiring teachers pass one of the state’s certification exams or an equivalent test.

In a letter to SUNY’s Board of Trustees dated Oct. 10, AQE Executive Director Billy Easton cited a state law that says the public must be allowed to comment on “the revised text” of any rule that has undergone “substantial revision.”

“These are substantially altered regulations and many parts of them are new regulations,” Easton told Chalkbeat New York. “There is a requirement that the public have an opportunity to comment and give input.”

Easton said his group would seek an injunction from a state court to block the regulations from going to effect if they are approved Wednesday.

Joseph Belluck, chair of the SUNY’s charter schools committee, said he planned to proceed with the vote. He rejected Easton’s argument, saying the basic structure of the regulations have not changed.

“I think the letter is wrong both factually and legally and we do not think that the changes that were made require any additional comment period,” said Belluck, whose group oversees 167 schools across the state.

SUNY’s proposal has been controversial since its inception, garnering pushback from teachers unions and state education officials who say it will allow unqualified teachers to enter classrooms. Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa called the original proposal “insulting,” while State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said fast food workers could receive more training than SUNY is proposing for its teachers.

Though prospective teachers will now have to sit for more classroom instruction one of the most criticized aspects of the original proposal they still will not have to earn a master’s degree or pass all the state certification exams that most prospective teachers must.

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.