New York State Certification, Professional Development
May 20, 2015

Despite 'safety nets,' teacher certification exams remain flawed

Author: Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT Communications

Teacher preparation students will have another year to use alternative paths to certification under an emergency regulation passed by the Regents May 18, but the so-called "safety nets" still don't address long-term problems with the state's deeply flawed new teacher certification exams.

The safety nets will allow teacher preparation students to use the alternatives if they fail any of the mandatory new exams. They will cover students taking the exams up to June 30, 2016.

The fact that students must fail the new certification exams before they can use the alternatives means they could end up paying more than $1,000 to be certified, once they pay the basic registration fees for the new exams, and possibly several hundred dollars more for alternatives.

"We are heartened that the Regents have provided alternative paths to certification. This is a temporary fix and could be a very costly one for students, at that," said NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino. "We continue to push the fact that our practitioners in the field know there are serious problems with these exams, in terms of their content and design."

Three of the exams covered by the safety nets were required as of May 1, 2014. The fourth exam, the Content Specialty Test (CST), was already in use and has 41 versions that test knowledge in different subjects. However, the CST is being redesigned and 17 of the redesigned exams are available. Details on the safety nets and alternative certifications can be viewed in the SED memorandum announcing the safety nets (PDF).

The alternatives for each exam are:

  • For the Academic Literacy Skills Test (ALST), students can submit a form from their teacher preparation program at testing that they have satisfactorily completed the courses that cover material on this exam, which assesses a future teacher's reading and writing skills. The alternative can be used by any student who has failed the ALST up to June 30, 2016.
  • For the Educating All Students (EAS) exam, SED will establish a temporary minimum passing score that will remain in effect up to the June 30, 2016 deadline. The new score has not been announced, but will be applied for any students who fail the exam up to the new deadline, and also for students who have already failed EAS but would have passed it under the temporary score. EAS assesses a future teacher's ability to work with students from different cultural, developmental and linguistic backgrounds.
  • For the redesigned Content Specialty Tests - which test a future teacher's knowledge in various subject areas - students will be allowed to take a previous version of the test. This offer will apply retroactively to any students who have already failed a redesigned test, as well as any students who fail the exam up to June 30, 2016.
  • For the educative Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), an existing safety net that had allowed students to take an older certification assessment will be extended for one more year. Under the SED proposal approved by the Regents this week, students who have already failed the edTPA or who fail it by June 30, 2016 have until June 30, 2017, to complete all other certification requirements.