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Major change to teacher certifications on deck for March Board of Regents meeting

The New York State Board of Regents
The New York State Board of Regents
Monica Disare

New York’s top education policymakers are heading into their March meeting with a big change to teacher certification on the table.

The board will vote on whether to eliminate the Academic Literacy Skills Test, one of the four certification hurdles prospective teachers must clear in New York state. Also on deck are a batch of charter school renewals, mergers and expansions, along with a discussion of the latest round of graduation results.

The March meeting marks a year since Chancellor Betty Rosa took the helm of the board, in what appeared a clear ideological turn for the board. Since then, the board has changed graduation requirements, charged forward with revamping the Common Core learning standards and started re-envisioning what accountability will look like under the new federal education law.

Here’s more about the agenda.

Changes to teacher certifications on the horizon

Eliminating the controversial literacy skills test would mark a significant departure from the state’s current certification rules.

The exam was added to the mix of requirements as part of an effort to overhaul teacher preparation that started in 2009. At the time, state officials wanted to ensure New York had well-qualified teachers. But some argue the new requirements have had unintended consequences.

The literacy test prompted a legal challenge after it proved difficult for black and Hispanic prospective teachers to pass. It also became a cost burden, one critics consider unnecessary because of the other certification hurdles teachers have to overcome.

The Regents planned to vote on this change in February, but the meeting was cancelled due to snow. If the measure passes, it would go into effect immediately as an emergency regulation and would likely be adopted as a permanent rule in July.

Another measure up for discussion would pave the way for students who barely failed the edTPA, an exam that requires prospective teachers to videotape their lessons, to earn their teaching certification through a review of other measures, such as grades and professor recommendations. State officials anticipate the Regents will formally consider this measure in July.

Charter school review

The Regents are set to vote on a slew of charter school renewals, expansions, a merger and a potential denial.

Of the 16 charter schools up for renewal at this meeting (nine of which are in New York City), 11 are up for full, five-year renewals and the others are being considered for short-term renewals. State officials will also vote on whether a charter school in Rochester should be denied its renewal.

As the Regents renew charter schools, it will test how much they plan to weigh demographic information when deciding a school’s fate. Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa has said she is concerned that some charter schools are not enrolling the same populations of students as are in their communities. (Charter schools have frequently been criticized for failing to enroll enough high-needs students.)

A number of charter schools in New York City could be expanded. As the sector continues to grow, the city will likely keep battling with advocacy groups over how much space is available for charter schools in public buildings.

Graduation and other topics

State officials could decide to allow foreign language exams to count toward graduation, as an optional replacement for a fifth Regent exam. The measure under consideration lays out the standards for approving any new exam, and state officials anticipate some schools may want to use the option to help students graduate this year.

Along those lines, the March meeting will kick off with a discussion of the latest graduation rates – including perhaps whether state officials think their efforts to change graduation requirements are working. (Chalkbeat reported on Friday that New York City saw a huge spike in students taking advantage of a more generous appeals process created last year.)

The Regents will also delve into high school equivalency exams and protections for immigrant students.

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