May 19, 2015

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Regents’ new safety nets prompt questions, concerns

uupdate 5-19-15

A decision by the state Board of Regents to create “safety nets” for the state’s deeply flawed new teacher certification exams still raises troubling questions about what will happen next—questions that the Regents so far have failed to address.

The May 18 measure will allow teacher preparation students to use alternative paths to certification if they fail any of the mandatory new exams. The safety nets will cover students taking the exams up to June 30, 2016.

“We appreciate the Regents taking this short-term action,” said UUP VP for Academics Jamie Dangler, who has led the union’s effort to expose the many problems with the new exams. “But that is exactly what this is—a short-term action that does nothing to examine the many legitimate concerns our teacher education professionals and their students have raised about the validity, content and design of these exams.”

Students must fail the new certification exams before they can use the alternatives—and that means they could end up paying considerably more than $1,000 in basic registrations fees for the new exams. Students who fail the new exams would have to pay hundreds of dollars more in registration fees for the alternatives.

UUP has been asking the Regents to investigate the problems with the exams, and not just apply the stopgap measure of the so-called safety net.

Based on the tenor of the Regents’ discussion at their May 18 meeting, and their lack of accurate information about the certification exams, it is clear that many Regents are concerned about problems with the exams, Dangler said.

Three of the exams covered by the safety nets were required as of May 1, 2014. The fourth exam, the Content Specialty Test (CST), was already in use and has 41 versions that test knowledge in different subjects. However, the CST is being redesigned, and 17 of the redesigned exams are available. Click here for details on the safety nets and alternative certifications.

The alternatives for each exam are:

  • For the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), students can submit a form from their teacher preparation program attesting that they have satisfactorily completed the courses that cover the material on this exam, which is an assessment of a future teacher’s reading and writing skills. The alternative can be used by any student who has failed the ALST up to the new deadline of June 30, 2016.

  • For the Educating All Students (EAS) exam, SED will set a new, temporary minimum passing score that will remain in effect to June 30, 2016. The new passing score has not been announced, but will be applied for students who take and fail the exam up to the new deadline, and also for students who have already failed EAS but would have passed it under the temporary new score. EAS assesses a future teacher’s ability to work with students from a variety of cultural, developmental and linguistic backgrounds.

  • For the redeveloped Content Specialty Tests—which test a future teacher’s knowledge in various subject areas—students will be allowed to take a version of the test that was used before the redesign. The offer to take the older version will apply retroactively to any students who had to take a redesigned test, and will include any students who take and fail the exam up to June 30, 2016.

  • For the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), an existing safety net that allowed students to take an older certification assessment—the Assessments of Teaching Skills—Written (ATS -- W) will be extended for another year. Under the SED proposal approved by the Regents May 18, students who have already failed the edTPA, or who take it and fail by June 30, 2016, have until June 30, 2017, to complete all other certification requirements.

Dangler said she is working with the UUP Teacher Education Task Force to determine the union’s next steps.

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