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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
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March 19, 2015

SED fails to set passing scores before forcing student teachers to take new certification tests

ALBANY – Imagine taking a test without a way to measure if you passed or failed. A number of students who earned their teaching degrees don’t have to imagine—they know what it feels like.

That’s because the State Education Department imposed the newly revised Content Specialty Tests (CST) on students before establishing passing scores for the exams. Students were required to take the CST starting in September 2014.

Six months later, SED and Pearson Inc.—a corporate education testing company that administers the tests—have yet to set passing grades (cut scores) for 17 of the 40 CSTs, on subjects ranging from mathematics and English language arts to physical education.

Now, these students—who have earned an SED-sanctioned teaching degree—are being shut out of the job market. SED’s actions are denying them a fair certification process.

SED required students to take the new exams before Pearson was ready to score them, said Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., president of United University Professions, the union representing academic and professional faculty at the State University of New York.

“This is creating an extreme hardship for recent graduates from teacher education programs seeking employment as teachers, as well as certified teachers seeking additional certificates,” he said. “Certification applications are being held up and SED has not provided a date as to when the passing scores will actually be available.”

According to Patricia Recchio, a teacher certification officer at Buffalo State College and a member of UUP’s Task Force on Teacher Education, teacher candidates were told that CST scores would be delayed until January 2015.

“That date has come and gone,” she said. “Imagine how much of a setback this is for students, especially those who did not pass and need to retake the exam.”

Kowal is concerned that SED is purposely waiting to set cut scores for the exams. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been outspoken about wanting to close teacher prep programs and graduate fewer teachers. This is just another calculated step by SED toward that result.

“There is a feeling the state wants to fail a specific percentage of students and is setting scores based on that goal,” he said.

“SED has not been forthcoming about the process for setting cut scores for any of its new exams,” UUP Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler said. “Faculty who participated in discussions for setting edTPA passing scores have said they don’t know how the final scores were arrived at. Educators don’t know how the passing scores for the EAS (Educating All Students exam) and ALST (Academic Literacy Skills Test) were set.

“They don’t even know who made up the exams,” she continued. “There is no publicly available record of faculty being consulted about these exams.”

UUP is broadening its call for an investigation to study any potential problems with the CSTs, determine how many students are affected, and find ways to help students whose teaching careers are being held up by the situation involving the CSTs.

At a March 5 press conference, UUP called on the state Legislature and the state Board of Regents to investigate SED’s deeply flawed new teacher certification process. UUP’s action comes after a two-year effort to work collaboratively to fix a series of problems associated with the new teacher certification requirements.

UUP is the nation's largest higher education union, with more than 37,000 academic and professional faculty and retirees. UUP members work at 29 New York state-operated campuses, including SUNY’s public teaching hospitals and health science centers in Brooklyn, Long Island and Syracuse. It is an affiliate of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the AFL-CIO.


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