May 18, 2016

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UUP rips SUNY over TeachNY report

uupdate 5-18-16

Click here to read UUP's TeachNY press release

Click here to read NYSUT's TeachNY press release

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher ignored UUP’s well-documented evidence of major problems with the state’s teacher certification process Wednesday as she announced a plan to address the coming teacher shortage in New York and the nation—a shortage she attributed solely and inaccurately to a mass wave of retirements.

Zimpher and State Education Commissioner MaryElen Elia announced the findings of the TeachNY Advisory Council at a news conference Wednesday. Zimpher described the council’s work as a movement with national implications, but did not address her decision to create the council and steer its work without consulting the Regents, who are charged by the state with overseeing the development of educational policy for New York’s public education system—including the State University of New York.

News conference promotional materials distributed by the council incorrectly listed UUP and NYSUT as partners in the council’s work, despite two strongly worded recent letters to Zimpher by NYSUT President Karen E. Magee and UUP President Fred Kowal informing her that the unions did not want their unions’ names associated with the council’s report. The study included 62 recommendations for drastically revising the teaching profession and teacher education programs in the state. The promotional materials did not list the Regents as partners.

Kowal dismissed the TeachNY report as pretentious and overreaching, and said it was absurd that Zimpher and Elia plan to hold a “listening tour” at public college campuses and school districts around the state to solicit feedback on the recommendations, given that Zimpher made it clear at the press conference that she considers the recommendations final and worthy of state funding.

“You solicit public opinion at the beginning of a process like this, not at the end, so the idea of public forums to obtain feedback is a farce,” Kowal said. “UUP has been telling the Regents and the State Education Department for two years now that the state’s new teacher certification exams are a large part of the reason for a teacher shortage that is already hitting several subject areas and specializations in New York. Countless numbers of talented students have been unable to pass these exams, which are stacked against them. Untold numbers of other prospective teachers have graduated but have never taken the exams, and have changed professions or left the state to take teaching jobs.

“Before Chancellor Zimpher heads out on her ‘listening tour,’ she might consider consulting first with the Regents, several of whom have worked quite hard with UUP to hear the very real concerns expressed by teacher education faculty and students in teacher education programs,” Kowal added.

Jamie Dangler, UUP’s vice president for academics, said the unions tried to work behind the scenes with Zimpher and SED to delay release of the report until the unions and their faculty experts in teacher education could review it and help correct its many omissions and inaccuracies. That attempt ended earlier this week when Zimpher announced the council report in an interview published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, a major publication and showcase venue for taking such a plan to the national level.

“It is premature and it is pretentious for the chancellor to think that she can speak for teacher educators,” Dangler said. “We find it outrageous that SUNY would release this report and go national with it even as we were trying to point out its biased and deeply flawed assumptions. Chancellor Zimpher calls this an inclusive, broad-based report? Well, I have spent this academic year meeting with our entire teacher education membership, many of whom are nationally acclaimed experts in their fields, and none of them had ever heard of TeachNY.”

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