Nov. 21, 2016

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Teacher ed task force makes progress

uupdate 11-18-16

As the work of the statewide edTPA task force approaches its completion, SUNY and UUP have found common ground on the need to revise parts of the state’s controversial teacher certification process.

At a Nov. 18 retreat for the UUP Teacher Education Task Force, David Cantaffa, the SUNY provost fellow for teacher education, and VPA Jamie Dangler, above, told UUP members that the task force is nearly finished with several recommendations it will put to the New York State Board of Regents. The recommendations have not yet been made public. UUP has three representatives on the state task force: Dangler, Stony Brook Chapter member Ken Lindblom, and Albany Chapter member Joette Stefl-Mabry.

Dangler opened the retreat with a call for action across all levels of public education in the state as the union braces for great uncertainty with the incoming Trump administration. Donald Trump has questioned the need for a federal Department of Education.

“UUP is in the process of networking with a lot of different organizations – labor unions, statewide and local community groups,” Dangler said. “UUP will be working with NYSUT to make K-12 connections, but work at the chapter levels matters more than ever before.”

The statewide edTPA task force’s main focus has been the educative Teacher Performance Assessment, a multipart practical and written exam to evaluate a future teacher’s classroom skills. Teacher education students, faculty and staff have roundly criticized the edTPA because the pressure to compress it into a brief student teaching experience too often forces future teachers to focus on the edTPA to the exclusion of all else.

uupdate 11-18-16

Cantaffa, above, a former assistant dean at SUNY Buffalo who oversaw the teacher education program there, said he believes that as a result of the statewide task force’s efforts, State Education Department officials are listening to concerns about the edTPA. The task force has also addressed problems with the Academic Skills Literacy Test (ALST).

“I think it’s important that we not only share what the problems are, but also what the potential solutions are, as well,” he told the UUP members at the retreat at UUP’s central office in Albany.

Cantaffa also explained the different parts of SUNY’s TeachNY initiative. The TeachNY Steering Committee will soon make recommendations for SUNY policy changes while the TeachNY Roundtable is focused on policy issues beyond SUNY. UUP President Fred Kowal participated in an October Roundtable meeting. Proposed SUNY policy changes will go to the campuses for comment in early 2017.

Retreat participants also discussed the growing teacher shortage in the state. New figures from SUNY indicate that between 2010 and 2015, enrollment in SUNY teacher education programs declined by 39 percent, from 21,987 to 13,421. UUP blames that decline on a culture of criticism of public education, fueled by anti-union and pro-charter school groups, and a problematic new teacher certification process, of which the poorly implemented edTPA is part.

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