Gadfly’s high hopes and expectations for New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner were sustained by his first major policy move. In a presentation to the Regents, Steiner made an impassioned case for reform of teacher preparation. His plan has five parts: a rigorous new certification test that factors in student performance; an overhaul of education school curricula; new accountability measures for ed schools, including tracking graduates’ effects on their students’ achievement; alternative paths to certification for new teachers; and bonuses for teachers teaching in high-needs schools and subjects. Most attention has centered on the possibility that New York might (finally) open up some alternative pathways into public-school teaching. This would, inter alia, make life a lot simpler for programs like Teach for America and The New Teacher Project, whose Empire State participants are currently forced to take traditional ed-school courses at night--and it would let providers other than those same ed schools offer preparation programs. Also important, however, are Steiner’s plans to reform the certification test and ed schools themselves, both of which were recently advocated by Education Secretary Arne Duncan (in a New York speech), and which could go a long way toward improving teacher quality. The details still need to be worked out—and that’s always risky, including pushback from Steiner’s own stodgy bureaucracy, but the Regents have the power to enact most of them without legislative intervention. Let’s hope they do.

Finally getting real on training teachers,” by Thomas W. Carroll, New York Post, November 18, 2009

Programs to Certify Teachers May Grow,” by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, November 15, 2009

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