SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and New York's education commissioner...

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and New York's education commissioner launched TeachNY Wednesday, a partnership that aims to reform teacher training. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

Two of the state’s top education officials announced a partnership Wednesday that would reform teacher training and address an anticipated shortage of those entering the profession in urban and rural areas.

State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher and State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in Albany launched TeachNY, a campaign that aims to add diversity in recruiting new teachers, train them in the classroom before they start their jobs, invest in continuing professional development and create regional councils to ensure there are enough teachers to meet projected demand.

The initiative springs from the recommendations of a new 144-page report from a SUNY advisory panel made up of state and national experts.

“I cannot overstate how critical it is that SED and SUNY share in this responsibility,” Zimpher said. “When you see us both standing here, it is a signal to everyone in education that New York knows what it is up against, and we are ready to meet this challenge.”

The state needs to add 1,700 teachers a year — and nationally, a total of 1.6 million teachers — between 2012 to 2022, according to the report. One-quarter of the teachers in the state are trained by SUNY, Zimpher said.

“We need to make sure that teachers and the profession of teaching is elevated so that people want to become teachers and, that when they do become teachers, we all recognize the important role they play in our lives,” Elia said.

The initiative and the report drew criticism Wednesday from the New York State United Teachers union and United University Professors, which represents 35,000 employees, mostly faculty members on 29 state-operated SUNY campuses. Both unions had participated in early work on the report, but withdrew their names in protest.

“This report gives short shrift to the experience and voice of education professionals and repeats the failed top-down approach that wreaked such havoc on public education in New York State,” said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee in the statement. The union leadership cites problems with the state’s teacher certification exams and its impact on the shortage.

Leaders of several teacher training programs in Nassau and Suffolk colleges said many of the TeachNY recommendations are already in place as education schools redesign their programs.

“Many of the points would be excellent as long as we have the money to carry them out,” said Nancy Brown, dean of SUNY Old Westbury’s School of Education. “The potential is there for this to have far-reaching and wonderful outcomes for the teaching profession.”

Dorit Kaufman, director of the professional education program at Stony Brook University, applauded the report for addressing the need to add diversity in its recruitment of teachers and create more student-teaching experiences for those going into the profession.

“It’s a visionary report,” she said.

Zimpher and Elia will next embark on a statewide listening tour that will include district schools, schools of education and other experts.

Key findings from the report and proposed TeachNY actions announced Wednesday include:

  • Launch a public service campaign to promote the teaching profession.
  • SUNY and SED will create regional advisory boards to ensure current and emerging needs are communicated and will seek to partner with the state and federal Departments of Labor on their establishment.
  • Establish Teacher Recruitment Academies in selected early college high schools in each of the state’s economic development regions to attract qualified, diverse high school students into teaching careers.
  • SUNY proposes to work with selected communities on the creation of an Urban-Rural Teacher Corps to recruit and support teachers who appreciate and are dedicated to the special needs of these schools.
  • Incentivize public schools to host teachers-in-training; similar to a teaching hospital’s obligation for residencies.

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