Tag Archives: edTPA

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.

Repairing Broken Teacher Preparation Programs: Hiring Unprepared Teachers or Fixing a Broken System: A Vital Task for the Board of Regents

The agenda for the September Regents meeting contains a shocking resolution: the state will allow school districts to hire substitute teachers without a valid teaching certificate. How is this possible? Schools can bypass teachers who have spent years studying and hire anyone to become a teacher? Should we be outraged? What’s going on?

The state is still suffering from ill-advised decisions by former commissioner John King.

There are two ways of creating institutional change: either force the change through and defend or work with stakeholders (“Participation Reduces Resistance”) to develop a level of consensus. Building consensus is time-consuming with many bumps along the road, using the power of an office to change policy can anger and alienate stakeholders as  well as result in unintended consequences.

The Obama administration “took on” the education establishment, from state departments of education to teacher unions, an attempt to remake the education landscape. The Race to the Top dangled $4.4 billion in competitive grants if states agreed to create teacher evaluation plans based on growth in student test scores and increase the number of charter schools.  Additionally, the administration supported increasing the quality of new teacher candidates. In New York State Commissioner King pushed through the Board of Regents a dramatic change in teacher preparation requirements. Teacher candidates would have to pass four examinations in order to receive a teaching certificate in New York State.

EdTPA, “The edTPA requires a lengthy electronic portfolio that includes written work and videos of candidates interacting with K-12 students. Obtaining parental consent is required for video recording…. All edTPA materials must be submitted to Pearson, Inc. through web-based platforms. Pearson, Inc. scores the edTPA,” Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST) is a three and a half hour general knowledge test containing both multiple choice and essay questions (see sample questions here) Educating All Students (EAS), a multiple choice and essay test specifically asking questions regarding students with special needs and English language learners, and, a Content Specialty Test (CST), also a three hour test, containing both multiple choice and essay questions specific to the candidates certification area.

The four tests cost about $1,000 plus additional costs for study guides and prep sessions.

The union representing college teachers at the State Universities oppose the tests, as an intrusion on academic freedom.

In reality the tests have turned college teacher preparation programs into test prep mills. Not only are the tests required for teacher certification; college will be “judged” by the state based on candidate pass rates.

The results on the exams have been so catastrophic that the state has created a safety net for candidates.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped drastically, across New York State enrollment has dropped between 20 of 40 percent. Failure rates on the exams are highest among students of color and students whose native language is other than English; candidates that the state especially wants to attract into teaching.

The unintended result has been that instead of increasing the quality of teacher preparation candidates the state has created a growing teacher shortage across the state necessitating allowing persons without valid teaching certificates to work as substitute teachers. Instead of increasing the quality of teachers the state is allowing completely unprepared teachers into classrooms,

With the departure of King the Regents are moving to remedy the ill-advised policy.

Regent Cashin, the chair of the Higher Education Committee has held hearings across the state, with hundreds of participants from both public and private colleges. Slowly the educational establishment has moved toward a consensus.

Hopefully over the next few months the Regents will reduce the number of examinations and perhaps revise the content of the tests.

Whether the imposition of the tests was even necessary is open to question.

The Council on the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) has spent a number of years, with widespread involvement of the national education community developing standards that would apply to all teacher preparation programs including raising the bar for entrants to programs. In fact, with the requirement that teacher preparation programs undergo periodic CAEP reviews why is it necessary for states to impose additional requirements on teacher preparation candidates?

Programs generally agree that the edTPA, embedded within teacher educations programs is a useful tool, the other exams are highly questionable. There is no evidence that grades on the exams have any correlation with success in the classroom.

Teachers, and their unions, have been under unrelenting pressure from the so-called reformers, rather than leading to changes that will improve teaching and learning the “teacher bashing” has chased potential candidates away from the profession, and, maybe, the candidates that you most want to attract.

When Arnie Duncan and John King raced to change the face of teaching; they jumped at untested, ill-advised ideas and, as it turns out, producing counterproductive policies.

Hopefully, in New York State, the Regents will repair the damage done by the previous educational leadership.

Albany and The Art of Compromise: How Will the “Irreconcilable Differences” Be Resolved? (Or Maybe Not!)

Politics is the art of compromise, no matter the differences, the passions, the antagonisms, the vast majority of issues end in some kind of compromise. Electeds constantly have the proverbial “finger in the air,” testing the winds of public opinion. Yes, occasionally there are issues that require an “up or down” vote, issues that defy compromise: choice, death penalty and marriage equality are examples, and, yes, frequently the path is agonizingly slow.

Partisans on both sides drum up their troops: send emails, tweets with the proper hashtags, office visits, speaking out at public meetings, all try to tilt the final vote to their side of the street.

There are times when we wish Aztec Heart Sacrifice was an option.

Holding the still beating heart of your opponent over your head as you scream in victory is a fitting ending, although frowned upon by the officialdom.

Governor Cuomo, in his State of the State message outlined a litany of “reforms,” in reality political revenge against teacher unions that failed to support him, or, supported his opponent, and jumping on board the richly funded (de)form train.

The New York State fiscal year begins April 1, if the budget is not in place the state’s financial rating drops and the governor’s approval rating takes a hit. Legislators won’t get paid and in order for the state to continue to function “continuing resolutions” and “executive orders” drive the state budget process. The governor ends up incrementally getting what he could not get in the orderly budget process, although at a political cost.

The political calculus is at a very high level. The two legislative houses, the 150-seat Assembly dominated by the downstate Democrats and the 63-seat Senate led, by a hair, by primarily suburban Republicans have to negotiate settlements on hundreds of issues that are included in the budget.

Members in both houses are already deeply engaged in internal discussions about crafting compromises, trade-offs (“logrolling”) and drawing “lines in the sand” that may or may not be flexible.

A prime example: the property tax cap versus rent control.

The Cuomo “Opportunity Agenda” is a 500 plus page listing of hundreds of initiatives, the education section begins on page 218, not exactly at the top of the agenda.

Let’s take a look at some of the proposals:

“…the current teacher discipline system is broken … [its] costly and time consuming …physical and sexual abuse [accusations] teacher should be suspended without pay …”

Defending members who are accused of physical or sexual misconduct is not popular with the public, or for that matter, with legislators. In the last contract the UFT and the Department of Education negotiated changes in teacher discipline that only apply to teachers in New York City. Commissioner King called the provisions, “A model or the state,” The provisions are embedded in the collective bargaining agreement,

The parties agree that certain types of alleged misconduct are so serious that the employee should be suspended without pay pending the outcome of the disciplinary process. Serious misconduct shall be defined as actions that would constitute:

• the felony sale, possession, or use of marijuana, a controlled substance, or a precursor of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia as defined in Article 220 or 221 of the Penal Law, or
• any crime involving physical abuse of a minor or student ….), or
• any felony committed either on school property or while in the performance of teaching duties, or
• any felony involving firearms as defined in Article 265 of the Penal Law.

A tenured pedagogue who has been charged under the criminal law or under §3020-a of the New York State Education Law with an act or acts constituting sexual misconduct (defined below) shall be suspended without pay upon a finding by a hearing officer of probable cause that sexual misconduct was committed.

A rebuttable presumption of probable cause shall exist where the Special Commissioner of Investigations (“SCI”) substantiates allegations of sexual misconduct, or a tenured pedagogue has been charged with criminal conduct based on act(s) of sexual misconduct.

The UFT has also entered into agreements with the Department to expedite hearing, since the agreement cases have averaged 105 days from the preferment of charges to the decision of the arbitrator.

The State Education Department (SED) does not have clean hands. For years the SED has hassled with arbitrators over the rates, length of hearings and other administrative matters, the “solution,” the SED decided, was slowing the payment of arbitrators, from 3-4 months to 18-24 months, and, eventually managed to change the law. Many arbitrators quit the panel and some refused to issue decisions until they were paid,

Nearly half of the state arbitrators assigned to hear cases of teacher misconduct in New York City have quit in the last few weeks [June, 2012], creating a potential backlog of cases in an already cluttered system,.
Ten of the 24 arbitrators who handle city cases have walked off the job, primarily because they have not been paid. Some arbitrators contracted by the state are owed at least two years’ back pay. State Education Department officials did not deny that the arbitrators are owed back pay.

There are a small number of teachers who have been awaiting decisions for a few years.

Additionally, cases are costly because school districts use outside counsel at hourly rates, depending upon the location, hundreds of dollars an hour is a standard rate. SED could force school districts to use state attorneys housed in BOCES centers and bill the school district, the cost would be substantially lower.

As of this date both sides are adamant, “fixing a broken system” on one side and “defending due process” on the other.

Another issue on the governor’s agenda is the recertification of teachers every five years.

“…recertify every five years much in the same way as attorneys …”

My lawyer friends smile, they can take “recertification” courses online [formally known as Continuing Legal Education], while on a cruise, at some fabulous resort, at worst, an annoyance, at best combining a vacation with some education. From the courts website:

Q] As an experienced attorney, what is my CLE requirement?
A] Experienced attorneys must complete a total of 24 accredited CLE credit hours during each biennial reporting cycle (the two-year period between your attorney registrations). At least 4 of these credit hours must be in the Ethics and Professionalism category. The remaining credit hours may be in any category of credit.

Q] What kinds of courses count toward my CLE requirement?
A] Experienced attorneys may earn CLE credit by attending CLE courses offered in the traditional live classroom format, or in nontraditional formats such as audiotapes, videoconferences, online, etc., so long as the CLE Board has accredited the provider to offer the course in the particular format, or the course is eligible for credit under New York’s Approved Jurisdiction policy.

If the “recertification” process is the same as “Continuing Legal Education,” this item does not, on the surface, appear to be an irreconcilable issue.

The Cuomo Opportunity Agenda also has a lengthy section on “Raising the Bar,” increasing the requirements for teacher candidates, requiring higher grade point averages in college to enter a teacher education program, evaluating teacher education programs based on the “grades” of graduates once they enter teaching, etc. However, just released research questions the need for any changes,

The academic capability of new teachers in New York City has risen over the past 15 years, new research shows. Between 1999 and 2010, the average SAT scores of New York City college students receiving their teaching certification increased by 18 percent, and the SAT scores of entering teachers in New York City improved by 49 percent, according to the study published in Educational Researcher.

The test score gains were particularly pronounced among teachers hired to work in high-poverty schools, which resulted in a substantial reduction of the academic ability gap of teachers hired at affluent versus high-poverty schools.

If we continue to “Raise the Bar” are we going to reduce the applicant pool? What is the correlation between SAT scores and effective teaching? What will be the impact on candidates who were English language learners or came up the ladder from community colleges? Will “Raising the Bar,” in effect bar minority teachers? After the first year of the new required teacher certifications exams applicants of color and Hispanic applicants have significantly lower pass rates (Read here)

Another Opportunity Agenda idea is to increase the probationary period from the current three to five years.

Under current law school districts have the ability to extend tenure, with the agreement of the teacher, and, in New York City the practice is not uncommon. The major problem is not granting tenure too early, the problem is teacher attrition. 31.1% of teachers who were hired in 2009-10 quit by year four. 16.6% of teachers in 2012-13 have quit. School districts, and, in New York City, schools, have total discretion who to hire. New York State colleges, up to last year were pumping out far more teachers (except in ESL, bilingual and some science areas) than could be absorbed. This year the registration in schools of education declined sharply. The extension of the probationary period could discourage applicants and have very significant “unintended consequences.”

On a range of other issues the governor and teachers/parents are miles apart.

Over the next two months the battle for hearts and minds will resonate around the state. Will the governor’s approval rating dive? Will legislators line up with Cuomo or his opponents? Will the print, electronic and cyber media tilt for or against? Bus and train loads of foot soldiers will trek up or down the Hudson to walk the corridors of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) as the emissaries of the “three men in a room” exchange ideas and memorandum and actual texts of proposed legislation.

For many any compromise is a loss, the equivalent of planting the flag on the top of Mount Suribachi must be the outcome.

I expect that the outcome will be a very complex combination that to some extent can be viewed as a partial victory for all sides; although I do envy the Aztecs.

Do Colleges Adequately Prepare Prospective Teachers? Should Colleges Be Responsible for Teachers Performance on the Job? Should the Feds Set Standards for Schools of Education? Why Aren’t Teachers Held in Higher Esteem?

The teachers were complaining about too much testing, impossibly complex tests, oppressive supervision, unhappiness that is commonplace, and pointed to Finland.

“Why don’t we adopt the same policies as in Finland, no standardized tests, a national curriculum and wide latitude in teaching?”

I wondered whether the teachers understood that if we adopted the same rules as in Finland few if any of the teachers would have a job. Fewer than 10% of applicants are accepted into Finnish schools of education.
(Read “The Secret to Finland’s Success: Educating Teachers“). Unfortunately the “best and the brightest” tend not to choose teaching as a career choice, in fact teaching attracts mediocre candidates,

… in 2007, among high school seniors who took the SAT and intended to major in education, the average scores were a dismal 480 in Critical Reading, 483 in Mathematics, and 476 in Writing.

In Finland teaching is a highly regarded career, salary is not extraordinary, the nation simply holds the position of teacher in high esteem, not so in the good, old USA.

In most public systems, no matter how well they instruct, no matter how creative or inspiring they are, no matter how much their students are learning, they all get paid a structured and uniform salary. They also have little room to advance their careers unless they become desk rats in the Land of Red Tape and Bureaucracy. What smart, ambitious person wants that?

In spite of the low status, the mediocre salaries, the absence of chances for advancement for the last decade students have flocked to schools of education. At State and City Universities, at $50,000-plus tuition prestigious schools, to private colleges, education colleges are graduating substantial numbers of students, most of whom haven’t found jobs (In NYS only 20% of elementary school certified teachers have found jobs three years after graduation).

The feds have decided to encourage/force states and colleges to up the ante, to set higher standards for prospective teachers and higher certification standards for states.

Education Week reports,

The Obama Administration will release draft accountability rules for the nation’s teacher-preparation programs this summer. Among other things, they would require states to improve their procedures for identifying strong and weak teacher-preparation programs, and would likely bar the worst from offering federal TEACH financial-aid grants.

Duncan did … mention[ed] that factors like teacher-placement rates, retention rates, gauges of alumni satisfaction, and measures of student learning would likely be part of the mix.

“We go into this very humbly and look forward to getting lots of feedback from the public,” Duncan said, but added that he doesn’t have much patience for naysayers. There’s been “such a lack of transparency, so much opaqueness [in teacher prep] I don’t think anyone can or should defend the status quo. Anyone who thinks what we’re doing is good enough, that to me is a real stretch.

New York State, as part of their Race to the Top grant, agreed to upgrade the teacher certification standards in the state. Over the years the State Education Department (SED) has approved scores of college-based teacher education programs around the state – the college “certifies” that the candidate completes the requisite courses and the student completes two exams – about 98% of the applicants pass the exams. Last year the SED moved to a different battery of exams, the edTPA. The Stanford-created exam is a complex combination of a video and two written exams within a tightly controlled environment (see description here).

The edTPA process has been sharply criticized by college faculties,

… the Vice President for Academics at UUP … notes “The edTPA is certainly separate from Common Core in many ways but I think the connection is that we see the same inappropriate rollout with the edTPA as we saw with the Common Core. So just as the Common Core was rushed in without adequate input from teachers in the k through 12 world, the same thing has happened with the edTPA. It was rushed in. Input from our educators at our colleges and universities was not taken seriously at State Ed, and so we have another debacle here.”

… UUP supports positive change and improving standards but teacher-educators and teachers need to be involved in decision-making in a more substantive way than the education department has drawn on them to date.

Bills have been introduced in the NYS Assembly to delay the implementation of the changes for one year, and, the Board of Regents will be considering a delay in implementation at the April 28th meeting.

Current federal regulations require states to identify the lowest achieving schools in the state and take corrective action, ranging from designing a corrective action plan, removing the principal, changing half the faculty to closing or converting the school to charter. These “persistently lowest achieving” (PLA) schools are almost always in the poorest zip codes. Will colleges who prepare students to teach in schools with populations of poor students be at-risk?

The feds intend to impose the same sanctions on schools of education. SED is currently “tracking” graduates into schools by the teacher scores on the APPR (teacher evaluation) scores. Every teacher in NYS receives a numerical grade (60% supervisory assessment, 20% student test scores, 20% “locally negotiated” metric) which converts to categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. Last year 1% of teacher were rated “ineffective” and 6% “developing.” College with higher percentages of “ineffective” and/or “developing” teachers will be subject to sanctions.

The unanswered questions are daunting:

* should colleges be held responsible once teachers are hired and are teaching in a school district when the college plays no role in site-based teacher support?

* is there any evidence that scores on the edTPA correlate with teacher performance?

* Is there any data which disaggregates edTPA scores by gender, race and ethnicity?

Currently only two states, New York State and the state of Washington have implemented the edTPA exams: is NYS rushing into a sea change too quickly?

There are larger questions: should teacher preparation programs be the responsibility of the school district rather than the university?

If you ask new teachers whether their college preparation program prepared them adequately for the classroom most (with a few exceptions), say “no.” Under the prior administration the NYC Department of Education mused about whether they would do a better job of preparing prospective teachers – the only non-college organization which has the ability to certify teachers is the Museum of Natural History (Earth Science) and the program is quite small and supported with federal grant dollars.

How important is the traditional college coursework? Should teacher preparation be treated as a vocation with the emphasis on actual in the classroom work under the guidance of a skilled teacher – a return to an apprentice system?

A baseline question: should teacher preparation programs be established in Washington DC or at the state or school district level? And, of course, will any of the changes matter if teachers continue to be held in low esteem?