Category Archives: edTPA

If Democrats Control Both Houses of the State Legislature How Would It Impact Education Policy?

On Tuesday voters across the nation will cast ballots that will decide the control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, in New York State voters will determine the control of the State Senate.

The 150-member Assembly is firmly in control of Democrats, led by speaker Carl Heastie, who replaced the disgraced Sheldon Silver.

The 63-member Senate is currently controlled by a slim, a very slim Republican majority, a one-vote majority. If there is a blue tsunami, a blue wave or a blue ripple the Democrats will gain control of the Senate.

The history of recent control of the Senate is covered with shame, the last two Democratic leaders of the Senate, both Afro-Americans, were convicted of crimes and incarcerated. The current Democratic leader in the Senate is Andrea Stewart-Cousins, an Afro-American woman representing Westchester.

If the Democrats prevail they will convene after being sworn in and select a majority leader; while Stewart-Cousin will probably prevail there may an opponent: Michael Gianaris, The Democrats in the Senate have always been a contentious group, divided by geography, race and just plain old political ambition. The Independent Democratic Coalition (IDC) peeled away eight democrats and shared leadership with the republicans. If you want a friend in Albany: buy a dog!

I suspect Stewart-Cousins will become the majority leader.

Both houses if the legislature will be led by Afro-Americans.

Who will Stewart-Cousins appoint a Education Chair? from New York City? the suburbs? a person of color?  How will Stewart-Cousins meld her senior members with her new members? How will she avoid identity politics?  Can she build a  collaborative majority or a fractious membership, some of whom may split off into a new IDC-like coalition?

The session kicks off with the governor’s State of the State message, laying out his policy agenda for the session. followed by the governor’s draft budget; in New York State the governor sets the parameters of the budget and from January until the end of March the “three men in a room,” excuse me, the two men and Andrea, hash out the budget. Governors can add non-budgetary items to the budget, the courts sustained this practice.

While the democrats control both houses representatives, regardless of party, will fight for issues important for their district. The loudest voice in the room is the governor.

In the last session about 15,000 bills were introduced in the Assembly, fewer than 500 became law; with both houses in democratic hands legislators will push hard for passage of their bills.

Legislators are both collaborative and competitive. Some legislators introduce twenty bills and others a few hundred, bills are assigned to committees and the committee chair is the gatekeeper. Some bills are similar to others bills, whose bill makes it to the floor?  The speaker and the majority leader are the final gatekeepers. It is rare for a bill to come to the floor that will not pass. Each party has almost daily conferences, closed meetings at which the members argue/debate bills, if there is sufficient opposition the speaker/majority leader will set the bill aside.

Education funding, although not sexy, is at the top of any education agenda. The combination of the limit on state and local tax deductions (SALT) and the 2% property tax cap is stressful. On one hand suburban districts pay extraordinarily high property taxes and the property tax cap is popular, on the other hand school districts are eating into reserves.

I suspect the legislature will take a deep dive into the way schools in New York State are funded. I doubt a bill can be agreed upon before the April 1st budget date; however, the state could select a commission to address a new school funding formula.

To further complicate New York City legislators will advocate for the full funding of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) lawsuit – billions of dollars; an example of division by geography.

The State Education Department is currently creating a list of budgetary and non-budgetary asks, over the past decade budgets have been stingy when it comes to State Education funding initiatives.

Over the years democrats and republicans, urban and suburban, have worked out budgets within the fiscal constraints set by the governor.

The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) is the union representing teachers in the 4400 schools in New York State; the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) is the union representing teachers in New York City.

A major issue for NYSUT is teacher evaluation, the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR). We are in the last year of a moratorium on the use of student testing data to assess teacher performance. In the post-budget legislative session the Assembly passed a bill championed by NYSUT that would have moved teacher assessment decisions to local school districts, at the last moment the Republican leadership in Senate held the bill hostage, and took no action. Will the NYSUT-supported bill pass the legislature early in the session, or, will the governor decide to delay the discussions until after the budget? The State Commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, has made it clear; the Regents and the State Education should be involved in any APPR revisions.

Charter school advocates are nervous, and they should be!  For election cycle after election cycle charter school PACs poured money into Republican Senate campaigns, Republicans with no charter schools in their district.

The charter school cap in New York City is about to be reached, unless the governor decides to fully jump on the charter school bandwagon the cap will not be raised.

In number of areas the charter school law is permissive, charter school critics may advocate for a tightening of the legislation, more transparency, and, perhaps, limiting the contribution tax write-offs for charter school philanthropy,

The SUNY Charter School Institute decided it had the authority to certify prospective charter school teachers, a policy that was sharply criticized, and the courts ruled SUNY had exceeded their authority. Will the legislature limit the authority of the SUNY Charter Institute?  Merryl Tisch, during her tenure as leader of the Board of Regents attempted to move all charter schools solely to the Board of Regents.

Individual legislators will introduce bills that require that school districts to protect (you write in the noun) or provide curriculum for (again, you write in the noun) or prohibit or require (whatever), many of these proposals cost dollars that are not provided in the proposal.

Some proposals will be high profile, reported in the print and online media, be subject to public meetings and others quietly proposed and passed without much public scrutiny.

Virtually every organization employs lobbyists, from organizations representing school boards, superintendents, small cities, mid-sized cities, the Big Five, the Gates Foundation, Scores of organizations bring members to Albany, usually on Monday and Tuesday attempting to meet with legislators. I say attempting because legislators attend committee meetings and the session meetings; a grassroots type of lobbying.

Gideon John Tucker, a Surrogate Judge in New York Country wrote in an 1866 decision, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”

The Next Teacher Preparation Crisis: New York State is Creating a Teacher Shortage (and a Talent Shortage), Another John King Disaster.

JOHN MERROW: Is this a good time to become a teacher? Salaries haven’t kept up with inflation, tenure is under attack, and standardized test scores are being used to fire teachers.

It was commonplace in the days of the old Soviet Union for the bureaucrats to erase from textbooks the names of those who had been purged by the communist leadership. For many in the upper echelons of New York State they wish they could do the same for John King.

Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post quotes King,

“In the first couple of years there will be what I characterize as process wins. You’ll see an evaluation system for teachers and principals, with student achievement built in as a meaningful component.…

As it turns out King’s tenure was a disaster, over 200,000 parents opting out of state tests, the Common Core being re-evaluated and the teacher evaluation process in disarray.

What has not gotten enough ink is the total chaos surrounding the King regulations intended to increase the proficiency of new teachers and the teacher training regulations that drive the over 200 teacher training programs in the state.

Regent Cashin, the co-chair of the Higher Education Committee of the Board of Regents held public hearings in Buffalo, New Paltz and New York City, hundreds of college professors attended and many testified, all sharply criticizing the impact of the King imposed regulations.

We all agree that we should seek the best candidates for the teaching profession, assure that college programs prepare prospective teachers adequately and have some sort of exit exam to assure competency.

In December, 2012 the American Federation of Teachers, the union representing over a million public school teachers issued a report,” Raising the Bar: Aligning and Elevating Teacher Preparation and the Teaching Profession,” the report avers,

As in medical, law and other professions, all prospective teachers—whether they come to the profession by the traditional or an alternative route—should meet a universal and rigorous bar that gauges mastery of subject matter knowledge and demonstrates competency in how to teach it. Also, the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the teaching profession’s standards and ensuring the cohesion of teacher preparation programs must reside with practicing teachers in K-12 and higher education.

And, the report makes three recommendations.

  • All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that teacher preparation standards, programs and assessments are aligned with a well-grounded vision of effective teaching.
  • Teaching, like other respected professions, must have a universal assessment process for entry that includes rigorous preparation centered on clinical practice as well as theory, an in-depth test of subject and pedagogical knowledge, and a comprehensive teacher performance assessment.
  • Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and ensuring the quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with members of the profession—practicing professionals in K-12 and higher education.

Unfortunately in New York State the stakeholders were excluded from the King-driven process. “Practicing professionals” were cast aside as the former commissioner imposed a tangled web of requirements and turned schools of education into test prep mills.

Enrollment in teacher education programs around the state has dropped between 20% and 40%, students choose not to even take the exams and seek employment in non-public schools, charter schools or out of state, larger percentages of Afro-American and students whose native language is not English are failing the exams, and, the best candidates may be opting out of the teaching profession.

King decided to ignore what was going on nationwide.

Over a number of years an organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation, known by the acronym, CAEP, has been working to create a standard for all teacher education programs across the nation. While the accreditation of a program is not mandatory must states “strongly advise” teacher education programs to undergo the rigorous accreditation process.

Required Component.  The provider [the college] sets admissions requirements, including CAEP minimum criteria or the state’s minimum criteria, whichever are higher, and gathers data to monitor applicants and the selected pool of candidates. The provider ensures that the average grade point average of its accepted cohort of candidates meets or exceeds the CAEP minimum of 3.0, and the group average performance on nationally normed ability/achievement assessments such as ACT, SAT, or GRE:

  • is in the top 50 percent from 2016-2017;
  • is in  the top 40 percent of the distribution from 2018-2019; and
  • is in the top 33 percent of the distribution by 2020

Over time, a program may develop a reliable, valid model that uses admissions criteria other than those stated in this standard. In this case, the admitted cohort group mean on these criteria must meet or exceed the standard that has been shown to positively correlate with measures of P-12 student learning and development.

In other words, these are the admission standards; however, we recognize that states may create their own standards that are the equivalent or higher.

John King decided to ignore CAEP and set his own exit standards in addition to the CAEP standards.

New York State requires candidates to take four exit exams:

* edTPA,

A Stanford created exam that “is a student-centered multiple measure assessment of teaching. It is designed to be educative and predicting of effective teaching and student learning.” The student creates a video of a lesson they teach and completes a template assessing the lesson.

* Liberal Arts and Science Test (LAST)

80 multiple choice questions based on reading passages and one essay (all computer-based), the questions are divided into subareas: Scientific, Mathematics and Technical Process, Historical and Social Science Awareness, Artistic Expression and the Humanities, Communication and Research Skills  – Click on the link above and try the sample questions.

* Educating All Students Test (EAS)

A computer-based test, 40 multiple choice and three constructed responses (essays). } “The EAS test measures professional and pedagogical knowledge and skills necessary to teach all students effectively in New York State public schools. This test consists of selected-response items (multiple choice) and constructed-response items (essays). Each constructed response item will share scenario-based stimulus material with several selected-response items.”

* Content Specialty Test (CST)

The CST is required in each certification area – a math question on the Grades 1-6 test is below:

  1. A third-grade teacher is preparing to teach the following standard from the New York State P–12 Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics.

 Explain equivalence of fractions in special cases, and compare fractions by reasoning about their size.

Which strategy is likely to be most effective as part of an introductory lesson designed to meet this standard?

  1. teaching that  is equivalent to  by showing how they represent the same point on a number line
  2. teaching that  is equivalent to  because  according to the rules of fractions
  3. teaching that  is equivalent to  because 6 is the least common denominator of 2 and 3
  4. teaching that  is equivalent to  by showing cross multiplication of 1 x 6 = 2 x 

The cost of the four tests is $600 – with additional cost for re-taking failed sections – plus study guides and tutoring sessions the cost can escalate to $1,000.

The core question: are the tests “valid and reliable,” will they produce more effective teachers? The answer is the test makers have no idea. Another core question: in standardizing the test – who was the sample population?  In other words, are the tests biased? Since these are all Pearson tests none of that information is available.

The colleges are forced to decide: do we create entirely new course curricula to embed the test requirements? Do we provide cram courses to prepare students?

At the three forums held by Regent Cashin the college instructors were sharply critical. Students who were excellent in class, excellent in their student teaching, were failing the exams, the entire process was challenging the judgment of the instructors who work with student each and every day. King made it abundantly clear that down the road the state intended to track the effectiveness of teachers based on the teacher evaluation system and attribute the score to the college program, with a threat of negative consequences for the program if students did poorly on the state tests, regardless of the at-risk nature of the students.

A negative incentive to prepare students to teach the neediest populations.

In the first few years of the state-required test students of color are not faring well on the exams. At the same time across the nation there are calls to increase the diversity within the teaching corps.

The New York Times, in an article titled “Where Are the Teachers of Color” writes,

… researchers who have found similar academic effects say more than test scores are at stake. “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University.

The New York City Department of Education has set a goal of recruiting 1,000 black males teachers over the next two years, at the same time that the state appears to be reducing the pool.

At the Regents Meeting next week I expect that Regent Cashin and the other members of the Higher Education Committee will be putting forth a number of proposals to bring sanity to the mess created by King.

If the Common Core had been phased in, perhaps beginning with the early childhood grades, moving up one grade each year, if the state and local school districts had initiated  professional development programs to bring teachers up to speed, if the exams had flexible cut scores the current school wars would never have occurred.

If the state had begun to revise teacher education requirements by including the professionals, as recommended by the American Federation of Teacher report,

  • Primary responsibility for setting and enforcing the standards of the profession and ensuring the quality and coherence of teacher preparation programs must reside with members of the profession—practicing professionals in K-12 and higher education,

we would not find ourselves in the current abyss.

In the literature regarding organizational change the first principle is “Participation Reduces Resistance,” a lesson clearly not learned in the King led Department of Education.

I am optimistic that the new commissioner and newly revitalized Board of Regents can return the teacher preparation landscape to sanity.

Can We Test Prospective Teachers to Greatness? We Are Chasing Away, Not Recruiting the “Best and the Brightest” Future Teachers.

From the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) to A Nation at Risk (1983) to No Child Left Behind (2002) think tanks, universities and legislatures have been jousting over how to eliminate the racial academic achievement gap. Students of color have lower scores on tests, have lower graduation rates, higher incarceration rates and earn far fewer dollars throughout their lives.

No Children Left Behind (NCLB) saw the “stick” as the answer; annual transparent testing in grades 3 – 8, the setting of goals for each school and a range of interventions leading to school closings if schools failed to reach the goals. What was heralded as the answer to “failing” schools is yet another discredited bad idea.

The Obama administration added the carrot to the stick: dangling over four billion dollars for states who committed to implement a range of approaches: choice, meaning charter schools as an alternative to public schools, full implementation of the Common Core, Common Core testing and a teacher evaluation system based on student growth scores. When the grant ended in June New York State confronted a bitter reality, parents opting out of the testing system, angry and frustrated teachers and politicians scrambling to mollify the disillusioned public; nirvana had not been achieved,

One of ideas spinning out of academia and the US Department of Education is based on what appears to be a sensible principle: create exceptional teachers who will erase the achievement gap. The Rand Corporation  writes,

When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.

Non-school factors are very important; however, we cannot control these factors.

Some research suggests that, compared with teachers, individual and family characteristics may have four to eight times the impact on student achievement. But policy discussions focus on teachers because it is arguably easier for public policy to improve teaching than to change students’ personal characteristics or family circumstances. Effective teaching has the potential to help level the playing field.

And, it is difficult to predict teacher effectiveness through pre-service factors.

Despite common perceptions, effective teachers cannot reliably be identified based on where they went to school, whether they’re licensed, or (after the first few years) how long they’ve taught. The best way to assess teachers’ effectiveness is to look at their on-the-job performance, including what they do in the classroom and how much progress their students make on achievement tests.

Have no fear says Arne Duncan and John King, why don’t we raise the bar for prospective teachers, only accept candidates with 3.0 GPAs or higher, and, let’s give them a range of required tests before we actually license the candidates.

* The exams plus study guides cost $1,000

* the edTPA, a Stanford-Pearson product requires the candidate to produce a video of a lesson with an accompanying portfolio.

* the Academic Literary Skills Test, ALST,

This test consists of selected-response items, followed by focused constructed-response items and an extended writing assignment based on the critical analysis of authentic texts and graphic representations of information addressing the same topic. Each item requires the analysis of complex literary or informational texts.

* the Educating All Students test (EAS) consists of selected-response (multiple-choice) questions and three constructed-response assignments dealing with diverse populations, English language learners and Students with Disabilities.

* the Content Specialty Test  (CST) in Childhood Grades 1-6 contains 120  multiple choice questions in Literacy, English Language Arts, Mathematics and Arts and Science, over five and a half hours of testing time.

The State Education Department has set cut scores for each test, without any evidence that the cut levels produce more effective teachers: Afro-American and test takers whose native language is other than English have significantly lower grades. Schools of Education have turned into test prep mills; especially since the State Department of Education publicly released the scores with a “stick,” schools with lower student scores are threatened with “corrective action,” aka closing. Is there any evidence that the test tests actually sort prospective teachers by ability?  The answer is no.

New York City and New York State are crafting initiatives to attract teachers of color, and, the exams exclude significant numbers of teachers of color. Colleges that attract larger numbers of teacher of color and other than English native speakers are faced with sanctions. The initial result is far fewer applicants to schools of education across the state.

The Higher Education Committee of the Board of Regents is sponsoring and Open Forum to allow college staff and students to explore the impact of the tests.

The forum will be held at St Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn 11201 at 6 PM on Monday, December 7th.

Richard Rothstein, Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (2004)  writes,

Teaching is both an art and a science. Pedagogical skills and content knowledge can be taught, but beyond these, the greatest teaching requires an instinctive affinity for the role. the greater the teachers, the more art and the less science is involved. This is true of all fields. Most people achieve excellence through perspiration, but greatness – consistent performance in the top quintile – requires inspiration and innate skill as well. Much can be done to improve the 50th percentile teacher, but the inspiration that gets them all the way up the 90th percentile probably cannot be taught. You have it, or we don’t; if you don’t; you can still improve your teaching, but incrementally.

There may be that teaching gene.

The ill-conceived  John King  testing requirements for prospective teachers has created chaos. Colleges converted into test prep mills, colleges dissuaded from seeking students of color, prospective students deciding not to pursue teaching. Rather than filling classrooms with the “best and brightest” we are chasing the “best and brightest” away from teaching.

If you’re around tonight come by St Francis and listen to the teachers of teachers describe yet another incredibly ill-conceived initiative.

Schools seeking new teachers interview candidates, set up an opportunity to teach a model lesson, the interviews usually include colleagues, and, if hired new teachers must work four years as an at-will probationary employee; cutting down the pool of prospective teachers without any evidence that the required candidate testing impact student achievement is mindless.