The state Board of Regents detonated a bomb in the midst of the teacher-education hierarchy last week, by voting to allow alternative master's degree programs. By blowing up the status quo, the board opened an important conversation on teacher preparation in New York. This is a good start. It's a conversation we need to have.

State Education Commissioner David Steiner has been talking about a new emphasis on practical, in-classroom training since he accepted the commissioner's post last year. As dean of the education school at Hunter College, Steiner encouraged students to use videotape, for example, so they could observe themselves, to see which strategies were working.

That's a contrast with the more theory-oriented master's programs at most teachers' colleges. Their administrators have received Steiner's message coldly. They believe that entrenched faculty won't change, and there are financial considerations: Teacher education is very profitable.

The Regents' vote will allow other trainers, like Teach for America, to design alternative master's programs. The Regents themselves would confer the diplomas. The shift mirrors new thinking in Washington. And Teach for America, which recruits recent college graduates, could attract more eager, young teachers to high-needs classrooms.

There's always a need to update the textbook on educating teachers. The Regents are seeing to it.hN

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