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Long IslandEducation

Regents push requirement for new teacher exam to June 2017

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, left, and

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, left, and Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa look over documents during the Regents meeting in Albany on Monday, April 18, 2016. Credit: Hans Pennink

State education leaders on Tuesday pushed to June 2017 their goal of having all teacher candidates pass a new, bar-like exam for licensure — the fourth such delay in the past four years.

The 17-member Board of Regents, the state’s top education policy panel, unanimously approved the slower phase-in of the certification test, called the Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA. The action came on the second day of the Regents’ monthly meeting in Albany.

The change allows students about to graduate who failed the new exam to instead take an older test for certification. Similar “safety nets” are being extended for students who struggle with three other exams that are all part of the same licensing package.

The older test, known as the written Assessment for Teaching Skills, or ATS-W, was considerably easier to master, with a passage rate of more than 95 percent. The edTPA, by comparison, showed a passage rate among college completers of 79 percent in the 2013-14 academic year, according to the latest figures compiled by the state Education Department.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 students take the exam annually in New York.

“I like the edTPA — I think most people like the concept,” Regent Roger Tilles of Great Neck said. “But if it’s just rushed out, you have a situation where it doesn’t give the benefits it’s supposed to to students.”

Unlike older, paper-and-pencil tests, the edTPA requires students to submit videotapes of 15 to 20 minutes in length, in which they demonstrate their ability to successfully instruct students in classrooms. Candidates for certification also submit three to five lesson plans covering three days of classes, along with tests used with children in their classes.

The videotapes, while a good tool for evaluating classroom performance, have proved difficult for many students to produce on tight schedules while also completing coursework and student-teaching assignments.

At a conference in Garden City last month, Tilles and other Regents heard complaints from student teachers who had encountered various obstacles, particularly in getting required legal consent forms from parents in order to include children in the videotapes.

Those studying to become teachers also complained of the cost, particularly if they failed certain segments of the test and had to retake them. Total fees for the edTPA and three other exams included in the state’s certification package range from about $690 to $750, depending on the particular tests selected to cover specialized areas of instruction.

The Education Department’s efforts to raise requirements for students entering the teaching field began in 2009. The following year, the Board of Regents approved development of four new exams, including the edTPA.

Work on the exams accelerated when the federal government provided millions of dollars in “Race to the Top” incentive grants. The state initially agreed to begin requiring the exams in May 2013, but later moved the start date a year later to give college students more time to prepare.

In April 2014, the Regents postponed full use of the edTPA again by allowing students who failed the new assessment to instead take the ATS-W through June 2015. The “safety net” later was extended through June 2016.

On Tuesday, as Regents discussed the latest possibility of postponement, board member James Tallon of Binghamton said he would support it, as long as it was the last time extension. Tallon, a former majority leader in the state Assembly, has served on the board since 2002.

“We don’t want to be doing this a year from now,” Tallon said.

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