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Andrew Pallotta: SUNY’s “Fake Certification” Proposal

Every child should be taught by a highly skilled, qualified teacher.

New York State has always taken that principle very seriously.  It’s one reason why our public education system is among the best in the nation.

Parents know that anyone teaching in New York has met a rigorous teacher preparation standard. 

For example, teachers in our public schools must have 21 college credits in an accredited teacher education program… 30 credits of study in their specialty area … at least 40 days of supervised student teaching … and they must pass three separate certification exams.

In addition, New York is one of only a handful of states that require teachers to earn a masters’ degree to be permanently certified.

Teachers and parents support this very high standard.  It ensures that only the best-prepared teachers earn the privilege of teaching in a public school.

Come September, this may no longer be true.

Believe it or not, the charter industry wants to lower the requirements for its teachers.    

The charter school lobby is petitioning SUNY’s Charter School Committee for permission to bypass New York’s high standards for teachers.  The charter industry wants to certify its own teachers with as few as 30 hours of classroom instruction.

30 hours?

Teenagers who want to take their driving test must have 50 hours behind the wheel of a car.

Charter management is also pushing to allow uncertified teachers to “mentor” aspiring teachers, some of whom will be just out of college with absolutely no experience.

If SUNY’s Charter School Committee adopts these exploitive regulations next month, it would significantly undercut the quality of teaching in charter schools.  It would permit unqualified teachers in charter schools to educate large numbers of high-needs students -- some of whom are among the state’s poorest and most vulnerable -- who are most in need of a well-prepared teacher.

Who profits?  Not the kids.  Not their parents. This back door approach to teaching would only profit the charter industry – adding to its lack of transparency and accountability.

Students in charter schools, like all children in New York State, deserve well-prepared teachers.

As Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa said, “It’s insulting.” 

Meanwhile, these unqualified teachers in charter schools would then be stuck with what I call “fake certification.”

This second-tier system does them a great disservice because, if they wish to someday teach in regular public schools, they will not have met the rigorous standards that apply to all other teachers.

I understand that some SUNY-authorized charter schools have great difficulty attracting and retaining qualified teachers.  Turnover rates at these charters can be 30- or 40-percent from one year to the next.

That’s a shame, for everyone.

If the charter industry wants to meaningfully address the problem, it should try improving working conditions; treating charter teachers with respect; and giving them a meaningful voice in how the charter school operates.

The answer is not to lower the standards and let just anyone be a teacher.   After all, if there was a shortage of doctors or airline pilots, no one would support just about anyone performing surgery or flying a 747.

Lives would be at stake.  And, they’re at stake in our schools, too.

SUNY’s Charter School Committee should flatly reject this dangerous proposal.

Andy Pallotta, a former elementary teacher, is president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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