In March 2016, members of the New York State Board of Regents elected Betty A. Rosa, a former New York City principal and superintendent, as their new chancellor. In the year since she has taken the position, significant changes have come to New York’s education policies.
One of the biggest changes to New York State’s education policy has been the elimination of one of the state’s primary teacher certification requirements. Prospective teachers will no longer have to take the Academic Literacy Skills Test, an exam designed to measure reading and writing ability. The decision marks a significant rollback of the state’s certification requirements, but officials in the administration maintain that the literacy test had become an unnecessary hurdle for prospective teachers. The intent behind the test was to ensure that teachers were more qualified and better prepared for the demands of the job, but the test seemed to reduce the diversity of the future teacher population. Between September 2013 and June 2016, only 38 percent of aspiring black teachers and 46 percent of aspiring Hispanic teachers passed the test, compared to 69 percent of their white peers.
An additional regulation put in place under the new chancellor’s agenda is an extension of a safety net provision for edTPA exam, a test that required teachers to submit a videotape of them teaching a lesson for review. The safety net, which allows prospective teachers to take an easier, paper-based exam, was put in place after only 77 percent of prospective teachers passed the exam after it rolled out in New York. These measures are interpreted by some to be a lowering of the standards for future teachers but the chancellor has argued for these measures on the grounds that there should not be unnecessary barriers to appropriate teachers getting the certifications and positions they want.
Fundamentally, the chancellor believes the literacy test is a costly and ineffective way to gauge teacher literacy. In an article Chancellor Rosa wrote in response to Robert Pondiscio of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, she mentioned Charles Sahm, the director of education policy at the conservative Manhattan Institute, who took the test himself and failed it. This event and recommendations from the EdTPA Task Force convinced the chancellor that the test had to be dropped.
The chancellor has also been critical of state tests and graduation requirements, as they exist right now. In a March 2017 interview, the chancellor criticized the focus placed exclusively on standardized tests and graduation quotas as metrics to measure the success of schooling. She said “There is so much more to education than just a one, multiple-choice moment in time. That is one aspect. I’m not saying it isn’t important. What I am saying is it’s one variable in measuring success and that’s why I’ve been critical. We need multiple perspectives on measuring a student’s success.” The new chancellor is committed to reshaping and reforming aspects of New York State’s educational policy, laying out a number of general propositions for policy. The standards by which new teachers come into the workforce and receive certification is one prominent area she has affected so far in her position. The coming years should tell more about what forms of changes she wants to see for New York.