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Changes Afoot in New York Teacher Education

Over the past year and a half, New York's board of regents has quietly approved changes to teacher education rules that promise to significantly reshape training in that state.

First, it's into opening up new avenues for the preparation of teachers: Under a competition funded partly by the state's Race to the Top win, the state created a pilot competitive program for a "graduate level clinically rich teacher-preparation pilot program," which would allow both higher education and non-higher-education institutions to operate a teacher-residency program and grant masters' degrees in teaching.

A teacher residency is a yearlong apprenticeship in which candidates spend much time in schools. I just wrote a long EdWeek story about the model, so make sure to check it out.

The idea of a nonprofit offering a graduate teaching degree is quite a new one. The only other instance I can think of in which a non-IHE is permitted to mint teachers is the High Tech High program, in California.

The state competition was informed by innovations from the Teacher U partnership, a novel collaboration that involved several charter school networks and the Manhattan-based Hunter College—a City University of New York outlet. (Teacher U recently decided to separate from Hunter; its new name is the Relay College of Education.)

The regents just released the winners of this pilot competition. Only one of the winners is not a traditional school of education, but it's a really interesting one: New York City's famed American Museum of Natural History.

The competition has had national implications, too: It helped to inform a recent federal teacher-training bill.

Second, this competition comes on top of major changes in the state that will affect all preparers of teachers. In 2009, the regents announced plans to overhaul its system of tiered certification for teachers.

Recall that for a teacher in New York to move from an initial to professional certification, (s)he must earn a master's degree. Now, as part of that process, they'll also have to pass a series of performance-based assessments.

There are interesting implications to this change: A teacher could receive tenure, but potentially fail to meet the bar and therefore not be permitted to receive professional certification.

Again, this model was informed by the Teacher U/Relay concept of requiring all teachers-in-training to show evidence of student-achievement growth before they are allowed to graduate.

I have phone calls out to the regents, some of the winners in the state teacher-preparation contest, and other figures working in New York teacher education, who will be able to help me flesh out the meaning of all these changes. So check back at edweek.org for a fuller story on these changes in the next week or so.

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