Successful push for crucial teacher ed changes

uupdate 11-18-21

UUP teacher education advocates are celebrating a big win, with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature Nov. 15 on two bills which remove or reduce potential barriers for students applying to graduate programs in teacher education and school leadership.

The Graduate Record Examination—or an equivalent exam—is no longer required for admission to these graduate programs, and the grade-point average requirement can be waived for up to 50% of the candidates for admission.

“This is a huge win for our teacher ed programs and their students because it was really a misguided policy from the start,” said Jamie Dangler, UUP’s former statewide vice president for academics, who had worked with UUP’s statewide Teacher Education Committee since 2015 to overturn the two regulations, which former Gov. Andrew Cuomo put into the 2015-2016 budget.

One of the Cuomo regulations had set a mandatory minimum grade point average of 3.0 for candidates seeking admission to graduate programs in teacher education, as well as for candidates to programs in educational leadership that would ready them to be, for example, a school principal. The change allows graduate programs to waive the GPA requirement for up to 50% of candidates.

The other Cuomo regulation had required the GRE or an equivalent examination for admission to the graduate programs. That mandate has been lifted.

UUP, working with teacher education colleagues at CUNY and in private colleges and with other coalition partners, succeeded in getting the GPA requirement softened in 2017, when the Legislature passed a law allowing teacher education programs to waive the requirement for up to 15% of the candidates.

Still, as critics argued, the Cuomo regulations acted as a barrier to admission for promising students who might have missed the GPA requirement or a passing score on the GRE by a fraction. Even with the change that allowed the 15% waiver of the GPA, the requirement could have had a chilling effect on applicants who could not be sure they would be granted the waiver.

The changes signed into law by Gov. Hochul come at a time when applications to teacher education programs are increasing for the first time in years in New York, and also at a time when the U.S. Department of Education has identified teacher shortages in 18 specializations, including special education, art and music education in pre-K-12 and science for grades 7-12.

In its arguments against the GPA requirement, UUP had noted that the requirements could have discouraged candidates who had been English Language Learners in childhood, or who had hoped to enter teaching from a different profession. There is also no correlation between a candidate’s score on the GRE and that person’s success in the profession, and the cost of taking the GRE—which can run between $150 and $250, depending on late-registration charges and other fees—could exclude talented candidates.

And, as UUP teacher education faculty note, admission to a graduate teacher education program does not guarantee that even a talented, high-scoring candidate will succeed. It is extremely difficult to become a teacher in New York, which has what are generally considered the toughest certification requirements in the country, and all teachers must at the very least attain a master’s degree.

But even certified, practicing teachers with excellent undergraduate GPAs and high GRE scores will find a graduate program very demanding, so the idea that unqualified candidates could complete a graduate program, with or without a 3.0 GPA and the GRE, never made sense to those faculty deciding on admissions to graduate programs.

Candidates for graduate degrees in the profession also must meet high standards every step of the way to complete clinical experience requirements and otherwise progress toward certification and graduation. So, the argument that changing admissions requirements would lower the standards was never considered valid by teacher education faculty, who note that poorly performing candidates will be counseled out of an undergraduate program long before they become teachers, much less entered graduate school.