Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Sad Day at the Circus

Yesterday the New York State Board of Regents had a meeting. Most of the time they were apparently trying to wrap their brains around HEDI, a new ed acronym you’ll be hearing a lot about. New York’s Chalkbeat  called it “matrix madness” and the education summit held on May 7th in Albany was dubbed “evalapalooza” on Twitter  and elsewhere. But for those of us in teacher education, the real nail biter was the discussion about so-called “safety net” provisions for the new teacher licensure examinations that have been a source of chaos, confusion, heartache, and despair. Send in the clowns, because you are in for a helluva ride.

Let’s start with how the news was officially reported. Jessica Bakeman of Capital New York wrote that the Board of Regents voted to further delay full implementation of new teacher certification requirements. The specific provisions of the emergency amendment which goes into effect immediately can be found on pages 5 and 6 here. The good news for students who are struggling to pass these exams is as follows:

  •           Anyone who takes and fails the horrible ALST exam before the end of June next year can use a grade of 3.0 or better in equivalent coursework approved by the institution’s administration.   
  •           The EAS exam’s cut score will be temporarily amended and lowered to an as yet to be determined number (this will happen in June apparently) and will be retroactive, so for those who missed passing by a small margin, it’s likely you won’t need to retake the test. You will eventually receive a written notification with an updated score report.
  •          If you take and fail one of the new CST exams, you can take the older version, which is presumably easier, and use a passing score on it to be certified. Pearson is always happy to reactivate an obsolete test if it means more potential revenue!
  •          Which brings me to the last but not least safety net extension of the edTPA. Remember I wrote about the earlier revision to the edTPA safety net provision,  so now just add a year and it should all be clear. You submit your edTPA, and if you fail, you get a voucher from the state to take the obsolete ATS-W, which you must pass by the end of June next year, but you still have another year to meet all other certification requirements. This means we won’t be fully out of the safety net woods until June 30, 2017.

Of course behind the scenes there has been a massive effort to educate and inform stakeholders of just how nightmarish this bungled rollout has been. Even David Steiner, architect of Relay and member of the Deans for Impact was quoted by Yasmeen Kahn of WNYC  as saying the edTPA was “over ornate” and the “multiple hoops to jump through to get it all organized feel a bit heavy to me.” I suspect he and others behind the close-down-bad-teacher-education-programs agenda had to back down when they saw the enrollment numbers across the state take a gigantic nose-dive. Brittany Horn, an education reporter for the Times Union tweeted yesterday:

Jessica Bakeman reported that Chancellor Tisch blamed colleges for poor performance on the new licensure exams. Otherwise, she reasoned, how could one college have high passing rates and another have low scores? I guess this means that she hasn’t fully grasped the clear connections between performance on standardized tests and factors beyond the control of the teacher. It is sad and scary that the person in charge doesn’t seem to understand how the South Bronx is different from the Upper East Side, or how Teachers College is different from City College just up the street. Luckily the Regents are asking tough questions and raising serious concerns that are likely to end up back in the hands of lawmakers.  
Meanwhile, those who want to balance on the high wire, fly on the trapeze, and enter the uncertain teaching profession have a safety net to fall into – for now.


  1. Send in the Clowns...

    I thought that you'd want what I want, sorry, my dear
    But where are the clowns, send in the clowns
    Don't bother, they're here

    Isn't it rich? Isn't it queer?
    Losing my timing this late in my career
    But where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns
    Well, maybe next year

  2. New Challenges to Pearson Teacher Certification Exams – Alan Singer’s Latest Huffington Post

  3. Here's the link to the official memo from NYSED: http://www.highered.nysed.gov/memos/certexamsafetynets.html

  4. In order for edTPA to be effective the SED has to restructure student teaching. Colleges that had high passing also had great workshops. BUT students that attended particular colleges with high passing rates also were from more affluent families that could afford additional study materials and tutors that can review your edTPA portfolio. If the state's education department can't understand how economic status affects education, we have a bigger problem than the results of these tests! The SED has gone overboard with high stakes testing.