Nov. 6, 2015

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UUPers, regents, SED talk teacher ed at Buffalo meeting

uupdate 11-8-15

A UUP-led gathering of teacher preparation faculty in western New York, members of the New York State Board of Regents Higher Education Committee and State Education Department Deputy Commissioner John D'Agati struck a conciliatory and productive tone at Buffalo State College Friday (Nov. 6).

Above, Rosemary Arioli, coordinator of student teaching for elementary education and reading at SUNY Buffalo State, tells panelists at the meeting that concern about the edTPA is overwhelming the student teaching experience.

The meeting— the latest of several on the certification process in the past six months that has included regents, members and occasionally SED officials—allowed members to share research, observations and anecdotes about problems with the state's teacher certification process.

uupdate 11-8-15

The panel was made up of D'Agati and, from left, regents Catherine Collins, Kathleen Cashin and Judith Chin.

UUP President Fred Kowal opened the meeting by telling the participants that "the work you're about to take on is incredibly important for the state." The urgent mission before the attendees, he said, was not only to address concerns about the new assessments, but to stop the ongoing "collapse" of the teaching profession in New York.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs around the state has declined by 40 percent since the 2008-2009 school year, which faculty attribute to the combined effects of the new certification process and recent changes that make it even more difficult for teachers to achieve tenure or good performance assessments.

"It is incredibly helpful for all the stakeholders to talk about the certification process," said Jamie Dangler, UUP's vice president for academics, who organized the event with UUP Teacher Education Task Force members Macho and Sue Robb of Brockport. "We may not all agree on the solutions, but talking about the problems is vitally important if we are ever to achieve change."

A format of presentations by panelists and easy, back-and-forth conversation among all participants - who included at least one teacher preparation program student from Buffalo State, a high school principal, and teacher educators from SUNY and private colleges - opened the door for suggestions as well as criticisms.

Among the chief complaints: The new certification assessments often miss the mark of what a future teacher actually does (an oft-cited example: an exam with questions that assume all teachers work in a traditional classroom, which doesn't apply to future physical education teachers); the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) has so overwhelmed the student teaching experience that it is often the only issue student teachers can focus on; and student teachers have admitted that they have edited their edTPA videos to present a sanitized and unrealistic portrait of a classroom—one in which every child is attentive and no mishap or misbehavior ever occurs.

While no specific plan was announced to change the edTPA or the other, equally controversial new certification exams, teacher preparation faculty said they viewed the opportunity to meet face-to-face with D'Agati and the regents time well spent.

"I consider it a sign of respect that you're here," UUP member and panelist Laura Klenk of Buffalo State told the officials before she delivered an impassioned statement on how computerized assessments cannot be the sole measure or predictor of inspirational teaching skills.

D'Agati listened intently and mentioned that this was not the first time he had met with teacher preparation faculty. He said little during the meeting, but did tell the participants that "If there's something wrong, we should fix it."

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