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January 10, 2017

UUP urges Regents to approve changes to faulty teacher certification tests

ALBANY - The president of United University Professions today strongly supported the recommendations of a special state task force to fix the state’s flawed teacher certification exams and urged the Board of Regents to approve them.

If implemented, the recommendations will elevate teacher certification standards by helping to create a more valid, reliable certification process. They will also help attract more students to the teaching profession in New York State, which saw a 46.5 percent decline in teacher education program enrollments—more than 36,000 students—between 2009 and 2014.

“The state’s current teacher certification exams are highly flawed and have created unnecessary barriers for teacher candidates seeking to enter the profession,” said UUP President Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D. “If approved by the Regents, the task force’s recommendations will raise standards while ensuring that the tests are challenging but fair.”

“These changes are imperative. We appeal to the Regents to put them in place,” said UUP Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler, a task force member.

The state edTPA task force—formed to assess the educative Teacher Performance Assessment, one of four state teacher certification tests—produced the report in response to problems with the exams. UUP has been outspoken about the unfairness of the tests, their many flaws, the ability of corporate education giant Pearson to profit from students who fail the tests, and SED’s rushed rollout of the new certification process in 2014.

One of the task force’s recommendations would allow teacher educators to endorse students who fail the edTPA for initial certification based on multiple assessment measures. Eligible students must fall within a narrow band of the cut score to be eligible for certification. This would help address problems with Pearson test scorers, who are off-site and do not directly observe student teachers.

“Hired scorers who do not understand the variation in student teaching conditions and student needs in each classroom should not be the final determiners of whether someone gets initial teaching certification,” Dangler said. “This policy change would put certification decisions back in the hands of the state Education Department.”

Task force members also want a change that would allow the education commissioner to allow an alternative performance assessment when the edTPA does not match well with a particular teaching specialty area.

“We know the edTPA is mismatched with the student teaching and learning conditions in some fields,” Dangler said. “A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit in all teaching environments, and students need to learn during student teaching instead of being preoccupied with completing a test.”

Other task force recommendations include:

      • Reexamining the cost for students to take the edTPA and other certification tests. Many students paid up to $1,000 in testing and other required fees;
      • Studying teacher educators’ concerns about the content and quality of the Educating All Students Exam; and
      • The possible elimination of the highly problematic Academic Literacy Skills Test.

“We need rigor, fairness and equity. The edTPA task force recommendations move us in this direction,” said Kowal.

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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