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Fellows training program falls short

New York Teacher

UFT President Michael Mulgrew called for the Department of Education to review The New Teacher Project’s contract to conduct the training of New York City Teaching Fellows after a union survey found that nearly half of the graduates gave low marks to the training they received.

“Teaching in our schools is a tough job, particularly if you feel that your training program didn’t really prepare you for the challenges of a New York City classroom,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “Given the millions of dollars that the Bloomberg administration spent on this contract, I hope the new leadership at Tweed makes it part of its review of all the Bloomberg-era deals.”

According to the survey, nearly 50 percent of Teaching Fellows called their training “fair” or “poor,” while only about five percent rated it as “excellent.” By contrast, only 18 percent of teachers certified in traditional college programs rated their training “fair” or “poor” while more than 20 percent rated it as “excellent.”

The NYC Teaching Fellows program was created in 2000 to address a teacher shortage through an alternative certification program that attracted many career changers. Traditional teaching programs and schools require multiple years of classes and a stint of student teaching. The Fellows program sped up the process, providing six weeks of summer school for fellows, after which they are placed in high-need classrooms and continue to receive mentoring as they work toward a master’s degree after school and on weekends.

The city’s Department of Education has contracted with The New Teacher Project since 2005 to conduct the Fellows training, at a cost of some $50 million. According to The New Teacher Project, more than 9,000 of current teachers received their training through the Fellows program, including one out of every four math teachers in New York City’s public schools.

“Fellows become dedicated, successful teachers, but many of them must struggle in their first two years to overcome the gaps in their training,” said UFT Vice President for Education Catalina Fortino.

The survey of randomly selected teachers was conducted by the UFT Research Department from late November 2013 to mid-January 2014 online and using traditional mail. A total of more than 800 UFT members, including 81 Teaching Fellows, in the sample of 2,500 teachers responded.

The comprehensive survey covered teachers’ professional lives and future plans, working conditions, learning conditions in schools, and their views of education policies. Full results of the survey will be published in the March 27 issue of the New York Teacher.