Dec. 15, 2015

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Kowal pushes for teacher recruitment initiative in Assembly testimony

uupdate 12-15-15

Click here President Fred Kowal's Dec. 15 testimony to the Assembly Higher Education Committee

Click here for a detailed fact sheet on UUP's Recruiting and Educating Teachers for All legislative action item

UUP President Fred Kowal made a compelling argument for a UUP initiative that would help diversify the state’s teaching force at an Assembly hearing on the changing demographics of higher education in New York.

Kowal was one of dozens of experts who testified before the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Higher Education Dec. 15 on programs already in place to help so-called “nontraditional students,”— older and often returning students who are increasingly the norm at many campuses – as well as ideas that would further aid an increasingly diverse and often low-income population of college students to succeed.

Pipeline to success

UUP’s new legislative proposal, “Recruiting and Educating Teachers for All,” would attract a more diverse group of teaching candidates into the state’s largely white teaching force, Kowal told the committee. The program is modeled after the state’s highly successful Educational Opportunity Program, which provides intensive mentoring, special financial aid and support services to low-income college students.

Recruiting and Educating Teachers for All is one of four UUP legislative initiatives that would strengthen programs and opportunities for SUNY students; Kowal introduced the union’s action items at a news conference earlier in the day.

“The intent of this program is to turn the tide in terms of loss of diversity, as well as loss of candidates, in SUNY’s teacher education programs,” Kowal said. “Recruiting and Educating Teachers for All extends the opportunities that EOP students receive to underrepresented and economically disadvantaged teacher candidates, so that they too may reach their full potential.”

Not only does the state’s pool of undergraduate teacher candidates lack diversity, but many of the programs have seen their numbers of applicants plummet in the last five years—a decline that UUP’s higher education leaders attribute at least in part to the state’s deeply flawed new teacher certification process.

Concern about GPA mandate

A related concern for UUP is a law enacted last year that mandates a minimum 3.0 grade point average for applicants to graduate teacher education programs. UUP has objected to that law because it removes the expert discretion of teacher education faculty and staff in determining admissions to programs, and may block talented candidates who could develop strong potential as future teachers.

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the committee's chairwoman, asked Kowal after his testimony what would happen if the law mandating the minimum 3.0 GPA is not reversed. Kowal replied that letting the law stand would be “misguided,” and added that it’s necessary for policymakers to “listen to those of us who are in the field.”

Regent's call for diversity

Regent Kathleen Cashin, who co-chairs the state Board of Regents’ Higher Education Committee with Regent Charles Bendit, attended the hearing. Afterward, she voiced concerns about the minimum GPA requirement; she said it could deter low-income students of color, many of whom may be trying to enter the teaching profession after careers as teacher aides. Such students might just miss the income guidelines for many financial aid programs, yet still face financial hardship.

“Minority students are sometimes older students and may have to pay their own tuitions,” she said. “To have all that, and the 3.0 requirement – it’s not a win-win for them.”

There is nothing wrong with rigorous admission standards, but not to the point that they defeat the state’s goal of diversifying its teaching force, Cashin said.

“Diversity is not an option – it’s essential,” she said.

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