Fixing Teacher Preparation in New York State: Why Collaborative Processes Improve Outcomes.

How should we prepare prospective teachers for the classroom?

Law schools require a three-year sequence of classes and culminates in an examination – the bar exam.  The exam is not an accurate predictor of success or competence, it is the badge that the legal profession requires for entry.

The Office of the Professions within the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) licenses about fifty different professions. From medicine to veterinarian  to massage therapist to speech language pathologist, each has specific requirements and the state issues licenses/certifications that are required for practice.

The licensing process sets a minimum bar for entry into a profession.

State Ed approves colleges and university courses of study and requires terminal exams. The NYSED website lays out the step by step process and before John King required two examinations, the LAST and the ACT-W, the pass rates were in the high 90 percents.

When David Steiner, who had an excellent relationship with the education community, especially the unions, precipitously left his deputy John King became the commissioner.

The Common Core and the Common Core testing “pushed off the end of the diving board” approach has been well documented. Proficiency rates (aka pass rates) moved from 2/3 passing to 2/3 failing. Opposition grew into the Opt -Out Movement, one in five students opted out, and the opt-outs are heavily concentrated in suburban communities: the better to pressure the local electeds. The Long Island Opt-Out Facebook page has over 20,000 “friends.”

What had not received adequate coverage is the King imposed changes to teacher preparation certification requirements. King dumped the two exams and replaced them with four exams without any consultation with college instructors or deans.

The new exams are the edTPA, Educating All Students (EAS), Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) and the Content Specialty Test (CST) in the area of specialization.  At colleges the new requirements created chaos, suddenly colleges were turned into test prep mills, new exam passing rates fell sharply, many students were not completing the cycle of exams and the state instituted safety nets in an attempt to salvage and defend the flawed system. (See John King letter here)

If I was teaching a course for superintendents on policy creation and implementation I would use the  teacher prep policy changes as an example of how well-intended changes can crash without a carefully crafted collaborative plan; and, I would emphasize the word collaborative.

There is an immense literature on organizational change: the number one rule, “participation reduces resistance.”

A year or so ago the new chancellor and the new state commissioner began to rebuild the relationships: teachers, legislators, parents, the governor, trying to craft policies that addressed the myriad issues confronting schools.

Betty Rosa, the new chancellor is the leader of the policy board, the Board of Regents. Rosa chose Regents Cashin and Collins to co-chair the Higher Education Committee. Regent. Cashin, a career educator in New York City and Regent Collins, with a nursing,  background from Buffalo.

Over the last year the chairs of the Higher Ed Committee have held about ten forums across the state (I attended two of them). Hundreds of college teachers and students participated, wide ranging discussions, a few panels were live streamed. Deans of colleges of education met with the Higher Ed Committee, the union, the  UUP (United University Professions) played a crucial role. An edTPA Task Force was formed, co-chaired by a high level SUNY administrator and a vice president of the UUP.

At the Monday. February 13th Regents Meeting [Meeting canceled due to blizzard conditions] a proposal will be put forth.

(Click on the links for detailed explanations)

 

Proposed Amendments to Part 80 of the Commissioner’s Regulations Related to the Elimination of the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) for Teacher Certification and to Remove Unnecessary References to the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test |  HE (A) 1 *
Proposed Amendment to Section 80-1.5 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to the Establishment of a Multiple Measures Review Process for the edTPA |  HE (D) 1 *

 

The Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) will no longer be required and a revised safety net will be in place for the edTPA .

This is not the end of the process, the ed TPA Task Force will continue to review the teacher preparation requirements,  especially the student teaching requirements that vary widely from college to college.

The King approach: to push changes through the Board of Regents without any consensus from the field, from the folks who are expected to carry out the edict frequently dooms the plan.

Enrollment rates in college preparation programs have plummeted from 20% to 40% across the state.  Troubling numbers of students are not completing the exams and not seeking state certification – perhaps seeking employment in other states or in charter schools.

Consensus does not mean unanimity:  at some point in a consensus-building process the leadership has to move to implementation. I fully expect the Board to approve the actions, a comment period, final action later in the Spring, and, a continuing process to explore and revise the teacher preparation pathway.

Yes, we want to assure that teachers are adequately prepared for the classroom. We don’t know whether the exams assure competence, we cannot predict classroom outcomes based on college or exam grades. Teaching is part art and part skill. The revised process appears to be a major step in the right direction, but, only a step.  Are students from some colleges more successful than students from other colleges, and, if so, why? Does teacher diversity or gender impact student learning?  How many weeks of student teaching is the “right” amount? Exploring and fine tuning the teacher prep process is ongoing. The required course of study and the exams provide minimum requirements, akin to the legal profession bar exam.

As teachers we know we will always have to strive to get better, first year or tenth year or twentieth year there are always new skills, if we stop learning we atrophy.

Back to that course for superintendents: I would ask Regents Cashin and Collins to lay out the process that they followed,  Building consensus can be slow, frustrating, at times filled with conflict, personality can get in the way of process, there will be wrong turns, and, eventually the leadership must bring the process to a conclusion. Everyone will not satisfied and some may throw stones.  Remember what Churchill said about democracy: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Regents Cashin and Collins deserve accolades for correcting a broken process by including all the folks involved in the day to day preparation of new teachers in the process and having the patience and understanding to continue to seek to improve teacher preparation as we move forward in New York State.

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One response to “Fixing Teacher Preparation in New York State: Why Collaborative Processes Improve Outcomes.

  1. Certification exams primarily serve to legalize the practicioner. They do not guarantee levels of expertise. Excellence in teaching, doctoring, law
    practise and other areas is usually attributable to the level of OTJ training that the novice receives, not to mention the belief on the part of the institution that a strong standard of growth and developmenta is absolutely essential to promote excellence. The problem in education has always been that too many institutional leaders wre unawares as to how to go about setting up strong in house staff development and monitoring of staff development programs. Until and unless “drain the swamp’ is applied to the
    NYC school system,we will see noviices more apt to stradle mediocrity as opposed to reaching levels of excellence.

    Like

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