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N.Y.'s New Route to a Master's in Teaching

The New York State Board of Regents has voted unanimously to allow alternative-certification programs (such as Teach for America) to create their own master's degree programs, according to The New York Times. Previously, traditional education programs offered the only route to a master's in teaching.

Over the weekend, the Times ran a story highlighting the rise of alternative education programs, as critics of traditional education schools complain that they're too focused on theory and not enough on practice. Last fall, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, "Many, if not most, of the nation's 1,450 schools, colleges and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom," in a speech ironically held on the campus of Teachers' College, Columbia University's education school.

As a result, under the Regents' vote, the master's curricula for alternative education programs in N.Y. must emphasize practical teaching skills. Once teachers complete the program, the Board of Regents will award the degree to the teachers, and the teachers will be committed to teach in a high-needs school for four years.

Not surprisingly, some education school deans are already taking issue with the Regents' vote. "I have serious concerns about separating the craft of teaching from the knowledge base of teaching, and I think the regents are making a mistake in allowing the craft to be more important," said James J. Hennessy, dean of the graduate school of education at Fordham.

"We are not averse to alternative paths," Hennessy said. "But they have to be university-connected."

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