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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 class.

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.

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.

 

Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.

Another error

Missing student data means 900 Tennessee teachers could see their growth scores change

PHOTO: TN.gov

Tennessee’s testing problems continue. This time the issue is missing students.

Students’ test scores are used to evaluate teachers, and the failure of a data processing vendor to include scores for thousands of students may have skewed results for some teachers, officials said.

The scores, known as TVAAS, are based on how students improved under a teacher’s watch. The scores affect a teacher’s overall evaluation and in some districts, like Shelby County Schools, determine if a teacher gets a raise.

The error affects 1,700 teachers statewide, or about 9 percent of the 19,000 Tennessee teachers who receive scores. About 900 of those teachers had five or more students missing from their score, which could change their result.

The latest glitch follows a series of mishaps, including test scanning errors, which also affect teacher evaluations. A delay earlier this summer from the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing vendor, Questar, set off a chain of events that resulted in the missing student scores.

To calculate a teacher’s growth score, students and their test scores are assigned to a teacher. About 3 percent of the 1.5 million student-teacher assignments statewide had to be manually submitted in Excel files after Questar experienced software issues and fell behind on releasing raw scores to districts.

RANDA Solutions, a data processing vendor for the state, failed to input all of those Excel files, leading to the teachers’ scores being calculated without their full roster of students, said Sara Gast, a state spokeswoman. The error will not affect school or district TVAAS scores. (District-level TVAAS scores were released in September.)

Gast did not immediately confirm when the state will finalize those teachers’ scores with corrected student rosters. The state sent letters to districts last week informing them of the error and at least one Memphis teacher was told she had more than 80 of her 120 students missing from her score.

In the past, the process for matching students to the right teachers began at the end of the year, “which does not leave much room for adjustments in the case of unexpected delays,” Gast said in an email. The state had already planned to open the process earlier this year. Teachers can begin to verify their rosters next week, she said.