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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
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May 18, 2016

UUP: Flawed SUNY TeachNY report disconnected from reality

Click here to view NYSUT's press release on TeachNY

A report by SUNY’s TeachNY Advisory Council on teacher education is flawed, incomplete and fails to tap the experience of SUNY education professionals who teach and mentor future teachers across the state, according to United University Professions President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D.

The report, heralded by SUNY as a "historic partnership" between SUNY and the State Education Department, glosses over glaring problems with the state’s teacher certification exams and their impact on statewide teacher shortages and the lack of diversity in New York's teacher ed programs. The study ignores recent changes implemented by the state Board of Regents, and inappropriately cites reform groups such as the National Council on Teacher Quality as experts.

Some of the report’s recommendations directly conflict with actual experiences of SUNY teacher educators. Also missing: mentions of outstanding practices and new teacher ed developments already underway in the field.

"TeachNY is a smoke screen that bolsters the failed policy of former Commissioner John King, which SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher appears to endorse," said Kowal. "It is insulting to SUNY’s teacher education faculty and staff, and seriously out of touch with the widespread rejection of the top-down reform agenda that has undermined the work of teacher educators and their students.

"This report is pretentious and overreaches in an attempt to design standards for a profession that is highly regulated,” Kowal continued. “It is one more misguided critique that is disconnected from reality."

UUP and NYSUT attempted to work with SUNY on the report, but pulled away when teacher education professionals weren't given a real voice in vetting the Council’s recommendations. The report’s findings lack a “full range of input” from Council meetings, Kowal said.

In March 29 and May 6 letters to Chancellor Zimpher, Kowal and NYSUT President Karen E. Magee asked for UUP and NYSUT to be removed from the report.

“We cannot and will not endorse a report that is so flawed and one-sided, yet purports to be a legitimate collaboration between SUNY leadership and teacher educators,” said Kowal. “As written, this study goes out of its way to avoid the professional expertise and actual experiences of teacher educators, while thwarting attempts by our members to address real issues that need fixing.”

UUPs’ many concerns with the study include:

        • A failure to acknowledge recent Board of Regents actions to extend teacher certification exam safety nets for the third year in a row and the need to address problems that led to the extensions;
        • Problems with SUNY’s promotion of a 3.0 GPA admission requirement for undergraduate and graduate teacher ed programs, and failure to analyze the potential barrier this requirement creates for underrepresented and disadvantaged students who have the potential to develop and excel with appropriate mentoring and support;
        • A failure to discuss problems with the state’s flawed teacher certification process and how the process has impacted declining teacher ed program enrollments;
        • The lack of focus on diversity in the teaching force and the need to recruit underrepresented groups into the teaching profession;
        • Legitimizing reform groups such as the National Council on Teacher Quality by citing them as experts when they command little respect among education professionals;
        • Supporting Simulating Teaching as a way to expand clinical experiences for student teachers even though there is no research to back the program’s effectiveness, while neglecting to analyze current obstacles to expansion of actual clinical experiences;
        • Accepting the state’s flawed Annual Professional Performance Review system without regard to recent Board of Regents implementation changes; and
        • Advocating for expansion of private alternatives to public education, a complex subject that requires far more extensive analysis than the TeachNY study.

        “Hopefully, the Chancellor will see the error of her ways and we can work together to produce a viable, workable report that takes a 360-degree view of this important issue,” Kowal said.

    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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