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Comments of the week: probing city's teacher certification idea

When Department of Education officials announced their interest in creating a teacher certification program earlier this week, the city’s teachers union and many of our commenters responded with concern and alarm.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said he “strongly opposes” any effort to give the city authority over teacher certification, a process currently reserved almost exclusively for education colleges. City officials said it could help alleviate the shortage of teachers in some subject areas, but Mulgrew contended that the department’s policies are to blame for the system’s shortages.

He called the department’s professional development record “abysmal” and argued that it is encouraging teachers to flee the profession. Many of our commenters agreed.

“Lisa” was among the commenters to question how well the city could train the uncertified teachers who would enroll in its program (and eventually work in the schools):

Wow, “fast tracking” a fresh out of college special education teacher who will not even need a masters degree by placing him or her alongside a veteran teacher in a “thriving” school and then dumping them into a hard to staff school. I bet there are a ton of parents of special ed kids who can’t wait to have that kind of teacher.

But “East Sider” expressed support for the city’s fledgling plan, likening it to an “internship” model that could be useful for filling shortage areas such as special education and the sciences:

The Urban Teacher Residency (UTR) programs are highly successful in retaining teachers, and expensive – currently funded with federaral dollars. There are a number of sites in NYC. It sounds like Suransky is talking about a UTR-type program run from within the DOE. Currently UTR sites have relationships with universities. Its basically an internship model – worthwhile trying a pilot especially in shortage license areas.

“Juggleandhope” wrote that the city’s attempts to ease contractual restrictions on the process of removing teachers from the system should cast doubt on their bid for their own certification program:

Given the obsessive focus from the DOE to make veteran teachers more replaceable (attempts to eliminate tenure, teacher evaluations reliant on test scores, opposition to Last-In-First-Out, firing 50% of teachers at “turn-around” schools) it does seem worrisome to give that same DOE the power to credential however many replacements it chooses.

“Milo” speculated that the city will face more teaching shortages in coming years who may be put off by certain policies—and an city-run certification program might not be able to make up the difference:

Teacher working conditions are at an all time low and will continue to deteriorate. Examples: oversized classes, micromanaged schools, unexperienced administration, lack of teaching supplies, tenure weakened/eliminated, seniority rights eliminated, unions busted, constant test prep, flawed evaluation programs, pensions reduced. Is it any wonder why a would a person with a college degree would want to enter an already extremely stressful profession that has been reduced to a temporary job?

“A.S.Neill” agreed with “Milo’s” concerns, noting that not all teachers are satisfied with the city’s ability to provide professional development to its teachers:

This semester several teachers at my school have already just walked off the job even given the state of the economy. exceptionally competent or ambitious teachers angle to move up to administrators, transfer out of the troubled schools to “better” schools or another city or state, or just to better occupations entirely… the tipping point is usually the administration which is exceptionally ham handed in providing support backed up by the ideology of teacher blame for all the ills of education.

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