September 2017 Issue
August 31, 2017

NYSUT slams 'fake' certification plan for charter school teachers

Author: By Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

What? A teacher could be certified after just 30 hours of training?

NYSUT blasted the SUNY Charter School Institute's outrageous plan to allow some charter schools to "certify" their own teachers with as little as 30 hours of training — saying it would be unfair to students and open a back door to "fake" certification.

"What the charter industry is essentially saying is, 'Give us a few weeks and we'll authorize almost anyone we want to be a teacher,' " said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. "This backdoor approach is insulting to the teaching profession, the aspiring charter school teachers and, most importantly, a terrible disservice to all the charter school students who deserve highly qualified teachers. It's a travesty."

In a strongly worded public comment letter submitted to the SUNY charter committee in August, NYSUT urges SUNY trustees to shelve the proposed regulations that would allow some charter schools to bypass state certification standards and "certify" teachers with just 30 hours of in-house training and only a couple weeks of field experience. Under current state law, charters cannot have more than 15 uncertified teachers or more than 30 percent of its teaching staff uncertified, whichever number is smaller.

"The 'certification pathway' detailed in the draft regulations is not a certification at all," wrote NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene T. DiBrango in the fiery five-page letter. "The piece of paper given to a person who completes the [proposed] process amounts to a coupon that is only redeemable for employment at SUNY charter schools."

DiBrango said the regulations, if enacted, would "significantly undercut the quality of teaching in charter schools by permitting unqualified individuals to educate large numbers of high-needs students."

She noted New York is well regarded for its rigorous teacher certification requirements — and that the SUNY draft regulations circumvent many of the established criteria for teacher certification established by the state education commissioner and the Board of Regents.

"A candidate seeking certification through this process certainly cannot receive the proper training in such a short amount of time," DiBrango said. "And allowing uncertified teachers to train teachers for certification is irrational."

NYSUT's public comment submission is the latest in the union's effort to beat back the draft regulations that emerged quietly in June and were approved by a SUNY committee at a hastily called meeting in July. They were crafted because charter chains say they are finding it difficult to attract and retain certified teachers. One in five SUNY-authorized charter schools has five-year teacher turnover rates in excess of 50 percent, DiBrango said.

United University Professions, NYSUT's affiliate at SUNY, emphasized that the plan to lower standards contradicts SUNY's own TeachNY agenda, which calls for higher standards to "elevate the teaching professions" and longer, more intensive preparation programs.

Both the state education commissioner and Regents chancellor have voiced strong concerns about the plan, while a group of SUNY deans and directors of education programs said the "extreme measure … would virtually eliminate teacher certification requirements for charter school teachers."

Take action!

SUNY TRUSTEES NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU — FAST!

The SUNY Board needs to hear from educators. The public comment period for this dangerous plan — called Alternative Teacher Certification Compliance Pathways for SUNY Charter Schools — remains open until Sept. 9.

Comments can be submitted via email to charters@suny.edu or mailed to Ralph A. Rossi, II, SUNY Charter Schools Institute, 41 State St., Suite 700, Albany, NY 12207.

NYSUT has also posted SUNY's public comment link on the Member Action Center, mac.nysut.org.

The SUNY Board's Charter School Committee could vote on the regulation at its Sept. 12 meeting.

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