Teachers Need More Training Than Rules Allowed, Judge Says

By Elizabeth A. Harris

June 20, 2018

A New York state judge on Tuesday overturned new rules that would have allowed some charter schools to decide on their own who was qualified to teach.

The rules, enacted last year by the State University of New York, one of the two entities that grants charters in the state, were part of 2016 deal in the state legislature. In exchange for extending mayoral control of New York City schools, State Senate Republicans gave SUNY more authority to regulate the schools it oversees. SUNY then used that power to allow some schools to train and certify their own teachers. Among the schools in SUNY’s portfolio are some of the highest-performing charter schools in the state, including those in the high-scoring Success Academy network.

Eva Moskowitz, the founder of Success Academy, is close to Senate Republicans and the deal was seen as a gift to her. Success has had difficulty recruiting enough teachers as the network expands.

SUNY’s rules called for 160 hours of classroom instruction and 40 hours of teaching practice. They were hailed by supporters as a way to address a teacher shortage and to improve upon teacher certification in a state where it is widely seen as problematic. But opponents said the new rules asked far too little of teachers, and would allow charter schools to certify teachers who were essentially untrained.

Acting Supreme Court Justice Debra J. Young, of the State Supreme Court in Albany, sided with the detractors on Tuesday. The SUNY board of trustees, she said, “are free to require more of the teachers they hire but they must meet the minimum standards set” by the state education department and the Board of Regents, which oversees education policy in the state. Today, most people who become public schoolteachers in New York earn a master’s degree.

Betty A. Rosa, chancellor of the Board of Regents, and MaryEllen Elia, the state education commissioner, celebrated the decision and said in a statement, “every child — regardless of color, economic status or ability — deserves a qualified teacher with meaningful experience to be prepared for the classroom.”

A SUNY official said the decision was likely to be appealed, and that the board’s charter schools committee might reissue the rules in such a way that would satisfy Justice Young’s concerns.

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