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CONTACT: Mike Lisi (518) 640-6600
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Oct. 11, 2017

SUNY’s charter school teacher training plan skirts standards, accountability

The SUNY Charter Schools Committee’s plan to make it easier for prospective charter school teachers to become certified in New York would have far-reaching consequences that would limit students’ access to qualified and well-trained teachers.

The committee is expected to take action today on a revised proposal to allow charter schools to set up teacher training programs that would be unaccredited and far less stringent than teacher preparation programs operated by SUNY, CUNY and the state’s private colleges. It would also bypass the state’s required teacher certification exams.

The committee issued its plan earlier this week, following a 45-day comment period on an earlier proposal that drew strident opposition from members of the state Board of Regents, state legislators, UUP and NYSUT.

“In the face of overwhelming opposition to their first proposal, the committee came back with a proposal built to look like it addresses concerns,” said Kowal. “The bottom line is that SUNY intends to create an insulated and self-regulated system, which would contradict and undermine state and national efforts to raise standards and accountability in teacher preparation and certification.”

The new charter school proposal would increase the number of required instruction hours for prospective teachers, from 30 to 160 hours. But, the programs would not have to meet national accreditation standards, nor would they be taught by qualified teacher education faculty. Instead, charter schools would create “Instructional Programs,” to be approved by the SUNY Charter Schools Institute—made up of five members of the SUNY Board of Trustees.

And the Institute could waive any prerequisite if members believe an applicant has “the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully complete the programs as determined by the Institute.”

“So a BA or master’s degree isn’t really required, and the Institute gets to choose who gets in without definitive standards,” said UUP Vice President for Academics Jamie Dangler, who heads the union’s Teacher Education Task Force. “This is deceptive, and totally antithetical to prevailing standards and practices in the education profession.”

The committee’s new plan also:

      • Would allow prospective charter school teacher candidates to avoid state teacher certification exams. While it states that they can choose to take the Educating All Students test, that exam can be replaced by an Institute-approved exam that “measures, at a minimum, all required elements of the EAS.”
      • Would decrease teacher candidate field experience from 100 to 40 hours and reduce requirements for charter school “certification” for English for Speakers of Other Languages and Special Education from 75 to 40 hours. It would not require a clinical student teaching experience supervised by a qualified teacher in a setting outside of the charter school providing “instruction.”
      • Would negate what appears to be reasonable criteria for teacher preparation program instructors by including an “out clause” that would allow the Institute to approve instructors with “the expertise, advanced study or licensure appropriate to the field” without any required external standards or assessment.

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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