Teachers in the Empire State must, by law, either join or pay forced dues in every school district, teacher union power is very strong and pervasive. Charter schools were designed to allow more flexibility in all aspects of education reform, including how teachers are hired and trained. And teacher union officials, while co-opting charter schools where they are popular, have definitely come out against charter schools because of that very flexibility they give. The State University of New York’s charter school Committee has voted to let some high-performing charter schools to develop their own teacher preparation programs, which has teacher union officials clamoring for involvement. Check out the story in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
“During that meeting, they voted to let some high-performing charter schools, such as Rochester Prep, essentially create their own definitions of what it takes to qualify as a teacher. They could develop their own teacher training programs, bypassing colleges and universities. And, the proposal would allow these charter schools to hire uncertified teachers with as little as 30 hours in the classroom. The plan could be adopted and in place by mid-October.
While New York state already has several options for teacher certification, this measure could offer a dramatically easier pathway for would-be teachers. The state Board of Regents is already expressing concern for students: “We have established comprehensive standards and guidelines to develop capable and competent teachers. Through rigorous coursework and extensive preparation, teaching candidates are better prepared to foster and support student success.”
Understandably, the union representing faculty in teacher training and certification programs is upset: “SUNY appears to be saying that schools that hire teachers who complete college teacher preparation programs and meet the state’s teacher certification standards are not high quality schools.”
Of course, teachers are not to blame for that. But, the same cannot be said for the educational system for which they work. It is broken, and charter schools were set up to find ways to make it better. Some of these charters are far more successful at educating students than traditional public schools are. If these high performing charter schools have identified the need for a different kind of teacher than current training programs produce, that is clearly worth investigating.