From transportation issues to the cumbersome certification process, the roomful of college students, faculty members and K-12 educators had no trouble identifying a long list of barriers for aspiring teachers. All the financial hurdles. Graduating on time. Taking multiple certification exams.
But rather than dwelling on the barriers, participants at NYSUT’s “Take a Look at Teaching” summit at SUNY Potsdam on Tuesday instead focused on possible solutions.
For example, after several people talked about students struggling to get to field placements in rural areas, SUNY Potsdam Student Teaching Director Amy Guiney proposed a college-level driver education course — or a partnership with county agencies to provide public transportation. Guiney also talked about SUNY Potsdam's community partnership to promote teaching.
After student Makayla Cruikshank poignantly explained how “extremely stressful” it is for teacher candidates to complete the edTPA portfolio assessment at the same time as student teaching, higher education faculty leaders suggested state policymakers could eliminate it as a requirement for initial certification.
“It’s too much to ask during student teaching,” said Peter Brouwer, a SUNY Potsdam secondary education professor and United University Professions member. “They should be learning how to teach — not thinking about what form, what standard, what videotapes are required for the edTPA.”
Brouwer, who noted Illinois is considering dropping the edTPA, suggested that New York policymakers, at the very least, could move the requirement later in a teacher’s career. “It’s a real distraction from the student teaching experience,” he said.
Photo by Jason M. Hunter.
“We’ve heard a lot here about the importance of giving teacher candidates more experience and time in the classroom — but the edTPA takes away from that,” said Jamie Dangler (pictured above), statewide Vice President for Academics at United University Professions. “While it would be difficult to get rid of the edTPA entirely, maybe we should be looking at giving them more time in classrooms earlier in their teacher preparation program.”
These were just a few of the many practical suggestions offered by more than 100 participants at the Potsdam forum, the fourth in a series of “Take a Look at Teaching” events being held around the state. Rather than a large group presentation, NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango and other local leaders guided participants through roundtable discussions on how educators and policymakers can support students on their path to teaching — and remove impediments. After about an hour of discussion, each table reported out their top two or three takeaways.
Photo by Jason M. Hunter.
DiBrango (pictured above) said the aim of the summits is to talk about ways to inspire a new generation to become teachers and help diversify the profession.
DiBrango said we’re no longer talking about a looming teacher shortage. “It’s already here in a number of subject areas and high-needs districts,” she said. “A decade ago, there were two shortage areas. Now there are 16.”
She noted enrollment in New York’s teacher education programs has declined 47 percent since 2009, while one-third of the teachers could retire in the next five years. Two years ago, SUNY projected the state will need 180,000 teachers in the next decade.
“The crisis is real,” DiBrango said. “That’s why we are absolutely committed to this initiative.”
DiBrango urged participants to continue their conversations at the local level, hopefully building on connections made at the regional gathering. While this is the last “Take a Look at Teaching” forum this school year, DiBrango said future events are being planned next school year in the Southern Tier, Long Island, Yonkers, and the Capital Region.
“As we hold these summits, solutions are emerging,” DiBrango said. “At the same time, we’re making important connections and building strong partnerships between K-12 and higher education.”