By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Meeting the new admissions requirements for State University teacher-preparation programs will require few changes at SUNY Plattsburgh.
Recommended by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New NY Education Reform Commission, the requirements were recently adopted by the SUNY Board of Trustees and are intended to ensure that high-quality teachers are instructing students in New York state.
“We feel like we’re in really good shape when it comes to this new admissions policy,” said SUNY Plattsburgh Education, Health and Human Services Department Dean Michael Morgan.
That policy, which must be implemented by the 2015-16 academic year, will require students to have a GPA of 3.0 or higher to enter into a SUNY educator preparation program at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Though SUNY Plattsburgh’s program doesn’t currently have a specific GPA requirement, Morgan said, every single freshman who joined the program this fall met that standard.
“Part of that … has to do with our institution being a somewhat more selective institution now,” he said. “We only accepted 45 percent of the students who applied to this institution this year.”
For students transferring into the program, the college currently requires a GPA of 2.75; however, that will change in accordance with the new policy.
Still, of the 42 transfer students who applied to the program this year, all but six met the new requirements, according to Associate Dean of Education, Health and Human Services Denise Simard.
The policy also states the clinical-practice component of educator-preparation programs, such as field experiences and simulations, must comprise 35 percent of total professional course credits.
“We’ve been doing that for years now, so we won’t have to retool to do that,” Morgan said. “We’re already there.”
Within their first year at SUNY Plattsburgh, he noted, undergraduate education students are given a field placement and begin working directly with children in a school setting.
At the graduate level, however, some adjustments may be needed to ensure the clinical-practice component is at 35 percent, Morgan said, simply because that program spans a shorter amount of time and involves a more compressed schedule.
According to the new standards, SUNY schools must also require undergraduate applicants of teacher-education programs to submit SAT/ACT scores and graduate applicants to submit Graduate Record Examination scores.
Cutoff scores for the exams, however, have not yet been specified.
SUNY Plattsburgh does not currently require teacher applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination, a standardized test that assesses analytical and math skills, which students must pay to take.
Morgan said it is unclear how the prerequisite will affect the program’s graduate applicants, which, he noted, are down, likely due, in part, to recent changes in the public-education landscape.
Among those alterations are implementation of the state-mandated Annual Professional Performance Reviews of teachers and administrators and the Common Core Learning Standards.
“It doesn’t seem as attractive a field to go into, for multiple reasons,” he said.
But while SUNY Plattsburgh does already meet many of the new admission requirements, both Morgan and Simard believe there is more to being a good teacher than having a high GPA and test scores.
“Being smart is not enough,” Morgan said.
For example, he noted, it’s important that educators have dispositions conducive to working with children, parents and the community.
SUNY Plattsburgh pays close attention to that, but it isn’t addressed in the new policy.
“One of the things that really concerns us is sometimes the smartest are not also the ones that are the most compassionate or understand some of the issues of struggle because, oftentimes, learning has come easily for them,” Simard said.
And it’s certainly possible, she continued, that someone who does have the personality traits of a quality teacher could belong to a marginalized group that traditionally doesn’t score well on tests.
Childhood educators comprise a large population of white middle-class women, Simard noted, and the new standards seem to encourage more of that demographic to enter the profession rather than promoting diversity.
“We’re worried about the other folks ... kids need the other folks, too,” she said.
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