New York is poised to make it significantly easier to become a teacher — though their plans are on ice for a month.
The state’s education policymakers were set to vote on a major change to teacher certification requirements on Monday that would have walked back a controversial effort to make the teaching profession more selective. Winter weather won out, canceling the meeting.
The votes may happen in March but education department officials said it’s too early to have a finalized agenda. Here’s what we know:
Big changes to teacher certifications
One change would eliminate the test designed to measure prospective teachers’ reading and writing ability, known as the Academic Literacy Skills Test. The Regents were also set to discuss changes to the edTPA exam, which requires prospective teachers to videotape their lessons. Under the new plan, prospective teachers who barely failed the edTPA exam could still get certified after a review of factors like recommendations and their grade point averages.
Both tests were added to the requirements to become a teacher in New York during a process to overhaul teacher preparation that started in 2009. At the time, Regents said they hoped more rigorous exams focused on literacy and the real-life demands of the teaching profession would help make sure students had well-qualified educators.
But it hasn’t been an easy transition for potential educators, or for the schools that prepare them. Only 77 percent of aspiring teachers have passed the edTPA since its rollout in New York, prompting a safety-net option that allowed candidates to take an easier, paper-based exam.
And not everyone has been convinced that the new tests offer valuable feedback or are worth the costs. The literacy test has even faced legal challenges, since black and Hispanic candidates have passed the test in lower numbers. In 2013-14, only 48 percent of aspiring black teachers and 56 percent of aspiring Hispanic teachers passed the exam, compared to 75 percent of prospective white teachers.
That has prompted concern that trying to solve one problem created others, keeping more teachers of color out of classrooms just as the state is trying to boost those numbers.
Those concerns led the Regents to create a task force of education officials and experts, offered recommendations for sweeping changes at the January Regents meeting.
The literacy test is duplicative and unnecessary, said Jamie Dangler, vice president for academics at United University Professions, which represents SUNY employees, and who co-chaired the state’s edTPA task force.
“There are serious problems with the content and format of the ALST,” Dangler said. “It’s a poorly constructed exam.”
The review process for students who just miss the edTPA passing score would apply to those have at least a 3.0 GPA, and pass other required exams. A committee would then review additional material, like teacher recommendations, to determine if the prospective educator should earn a certification. That change would go out for public comment and is likely to come before the board for a vote in June, according to board materials.
Those materials list a number of other potential changes related to the edTPA, including convening a committee to rethink the passing score — which could mean lowering it. The state wants a new cut score by 2017, according to Monday’s materials.
More ways to earn a diploma
The Regents were also set to pave the way for high school students to swap a foreign language test for their final Regents exam required to graduate.
Specifically, they were set to approve the criteria they will use to decide which foreign language exams will count as alternative graduation exams. That puts the state in a position to allow some students to use one of those exams to graduate in just a few months. New York has begun allowing students to swap art, career and technical skills, and a skills certificate for their fifth Regents exam.
Abja Midha, a project director at Advocates for Children, says she expects the state will start by approving nationally recognized foreign language tests, such as Advanced Placement exams.
The news of the day
The Regents were also set to take on a few hot topics, such as the recently released graduation rates and the governor’s controversial state aid proposal. To what extent do Regents think the bump in statewide graduation rates have to do with changes the state made to graduation requirements? Were the Regents planning to take a stand against Cuomo’s proposal to change the way the state funds high-needs schools?
We may not know until March.