April 19, 2016

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"Safety nets" extended, Regents demand answers

uupdate 4-19-16

The New York State Board of Regents has extended for one more year the so-called “safety nets” that allow teacher education students who fail the state's problematic new certification exams alternative ways to achieve certification.

At their April 19 meeting, the Regents unanimously voted to extend the safety nets to June 2017. The extension came with the tacit understanding by the Regents that the extra year would be used to correct what several Regents described as a deeply flawed certification process that has backfired and needs to be fixed.

"The substance of the Regents’ discussion went beyond anything I’ve heard over three years of regularly attending Regents Higher Education meetings,” said Jamie Dangler, UUP’s vice president for academics. “We heard Regents ask to connect the emergency actions they took today to the ‘bigger picture’ of what’s going on.”

Calling out exams

Regent Lester Young Jr. said he was shocked at a recent forum to hear from students who said that some certification exam scorers had rounded the scores down by more than five points, failing students and forcing them to pay several hundred dollars to take the exam again.

“When you see something wrong and you know it’s wrong, you have to call it out,” Young said.

Visible frustration

The frustration several Regents expressed with the existing certification exams was notable for its bluntness, considering that UUP first spoke out about problems with the exams three years ago to a Board of Regents that was often dismissive and unresponsive to the concerns of faculty, students, supervising teachers in the field and the union’s higher education experts.

That began to change about a year ago, when several regents with backgrounds in education began speaking directly to practitioners and students at a series of campus meetings arranged by UUP and colleagues at other public and private institutions.

The plummeting enrollment in the state’s teacher education programs in the last few years—which UUP attributes at least in part to student reaction to the exams—may also have caught the attention of Regents.

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