The State University of New York proposal to allow charter schools it authorizes — including Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools — to devise their own teacher certification process would dramatically lower the entry bar for the profession. It also exposes a troubling double standard.
Traditional public school teachers who are fully licensed are required to have bachelor’s and master’s degrees from state-approved colleges and universities. They must pass state-certification and content-area exams. Every teacher completes a period of student teaching and they are expected to update their skills on a regular basis. Those certification requirements were put in place because teaching is difficult, and those entering the profession need proper training and support.
Both State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa called the plan insulting to the teaching profession.
If SUNY’s Charter Schools Committee approves the proposal, the 167 charter schools authorized by SUNY will have the opportunity to fashion their own teacher licensing program as long as it meets the minimum requirement of one week of training and 100 hours of classroom work. The state puts tougher licensing requirements on cosmetologists and real estate brokers, and those professions do not deal directly with children’s lives.
For more than a decade, corporate education “reformers” have insisted that teacher quality is the single most important variable in determining student outcomes. Yet now, at the bidding of the charter lobby, SUNY is proposing to allow the charter schools it authorizes to ignore all the professional requirements created to ensure a highly qualified teacher in every classroom.
Watering down certification standards would allow charter school operators to sidestep their real problem: high teacher turnover. At many charter schools, most of which lack union representation, staff vote with their feet against teaching from scripts, discriminatory discipline codes and leadership demands to counsel out vulnerable children who don’t fit the mold.
If adopted, this change in certification requirements put the lie to the claim by charter school operators that their schools are public schools. And it will send a cynical message to charter school parents: Your children do not deserve a fully qualified teacher.