New York Officials Consider Expanding Ways to Get Certified Due to Teacher Shortage

New York Officials Consider Expanding Ways to Get Certified Due to Teacher Shortage

As New York grapples with a teacher shortage, state education officials are debating additional paths to becoming certified — including options beyond obtaining a master’s degree, according to Chalkbeat New York.

Under current regulations, educators must obtain their master’s degree within five years of entering the classroom. That’s the only way teachers can stay in their jobs — and New York is one of only three states that requires teachers to obtain them in order to retain certification, according to state officials.

The master’s degree requirement can pose a significant financial and time-consuming burden early in a teacher’s career, while research does not necessarily show clear improvement in terms of the quality of teaching, officials said at a Board of Regents meeting earlier this month.

State education officials discussed possible alternative ways of fulfilling the requirement, including obtaining National Board certification, a highly regarded credential from a national teacher-quality group, or completing a set of graduate coursework that totals an equivalent number of hours to a master’s degree program.

But officials emphasized the master’s degree would remain an option.

Education officials considered the potential change as one of a set of possible reforms to the teacher certification process, aiming to strengthen and diversify the educator pipeline, streamlining the process of entering the field, and making it more equitable.

Other possible reforms discussed by state officials included expanding certification exam options and reducing barriers for teachers who want to become certified in an additional subject area. They’re also considering creating a pathway for teaching assistants to become certified teachers, streamlining the process for college professors who want to transition into the teacher workforce, and simplifying the process for school administrators seeking certification.

Currently, any master’s degree will fulfill New York’s requirement, though a set of credit hours must be completed within particular content areas. State officials also discussed changing the requirement to specifically mandate a degree in pedagogy or the content area in which a teacher is seeking to become certified.

The discussion came as the state and the country have grappled with a shortage of teachers, as many educators left the profession over the course of the pandemic.

Across the state, 80% of school districts have at least one staff member teaching a subject without the proper certification. For one-third of school districts, 5% or more of staff members

Jeffrey Matteson, a deputy commissioner at the state Education Department, stressed that regardless of any changes, school districts would continue to hire qualified teachers.

“No matter what we’re proposing here as far as certification pathways and professional certification, school districts go through hiring processes, they vet these people, they have to go through a background check, they’re not just put in front of the classroom,” he said. “So this isn’t a blowing up of the system, where a bunch of unqualified people are going to be forced upon school districts.

“This is about getting school districts more options for the people that they can select to put in front of the classroom,” he said.

Chalkbeat New York

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