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Proposal would lower certification standards in charter schools

UFT President Michael Mulgrew blasted the state’s proposal to allow charter schools in effect to certify their own teachers with scant requirements or proof of professional expertise.

He said the lower certification standards, proposed at the urging of the deep-pocketed charter school lobby, “threaten the state’s efforts to professionalize the teaching profession.” Under the proposed regulation, teachers at charter schools authorized by the State University of New York would not have to be trained as thoroughly as traditional public school teachers or other licensed professionals.

“The state requires prospective cosmetologists to receive 1,000 hours of specialized instruction and real estate brokers to get 120 hours of instruction and two years of field experience,” Mulgrew said in his letter to Joseph W. Belluck, the chair of the Charter School Committee at SUNY in Albany. “But SUNY’s proposed regulations would, in essence, let charter schools — many of which have admitted having difficulty hiring and retaining certified teachers — create their own special teaching licenses for anyone who finishes one week of specialized instruction and works only 100 hours in a classroom under the supervision of another teacher or administrator, including those who are not themselves certified.”

Belluck heads the four-member SUNY committee that authorizes charter schools and establishes charter school policies and standards. Across the state, SUNY has approved 167 charter schools that serve more than 70,000 students, including 38 Success Academies in New York City. Many charter schools, most of which lack union representation, have been plagued with high teacher turnover as their generally younger, more inexperienced staff burn out under the pressure of the longer work hours and harsher working conditions in charter schools.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the president of Bank Street College of Education, a former education official in the Bloomberg administration and a charter school supporter, also criticized the proposal. In an interview with POLITICO New York, Polakow-Suransky said, “There may be innovative ways to allow charters to train teachers but the framework laid out by SUNY suggests very little thought went into what these standards should be — for example, less than one month of classroom practice before becoming a full-time teacher has proven to be a recipe for failure and high teacher turnover across the state and the nation.”

The public comment period for the state’s proposal, called Alternative Teacher Certification Compliance Pathways for SUNY Charter Schools, opened on July 26 and will remain open for 45 days.

Submit a comment to SUNY's Charter School Committee »

Read the full text of the letter sent to the chair of the committee »

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