STATE: No balance in its scrutiny

It is a pretty common occurrence to see New York officials sue the federal government these days.

The state has threatened to join lawsuits over repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, changes to environmental regulations and U.S. Rep. Chris Collins’ legislation to overturn the state’s SAFE Act.

It’s ironic that the state is drawing such a hard line in the sand now that a Republican occupies the Oval Office, because state officials didn’t put up any fight at all when President Barack Obama and then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan proposed the Race to the Top. New York was awarded $700 million through Race to the Top and has spent the past several years dealing with the consequences. First came the learning standards rewrite after the state’s adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards flopped. Now, the state has quietly spent three years revising changes to its teacher certification standards that were adopted hastily under pressure from the Race to the Top program in 2014.

Three years ago, the state made it more difficult for prospective teachers to receive a state teaching certification, modifying the existing three teacher certification exams and adding the Educative Teacher Performance Assessment, or edTPA. The assessment required teacher candidates to create three related lesson plans, teach them during their student-teaching experience and then develop a test to measure their students’ progress. They also had to create two 10-minute videos that show them teaching the lessons and write narratives explaining their approach to all those tasks.

Predictably, teaching students had trouble with the edTPA. The state has struggled ever since to meet federal passing rates on teacher certification exams and now faces a possible shortage of teachers in some subject areas. It took three years of time and effort for the state Board of Regents to revise the 2014 rewrite of teacher certification guidelines before settling on a lower passing score for the edTPA, extended an existing safety net for those who failed the edTPA and created a new safety net called the Multiple Measure Review Process that allows those who are visibly ready to teach but didn’t pass the edTPA exam.

The changes seem to be a measured response to a legitimate problem. Of course, the Board of Regents wouldn’t have needed to spend three years fixing the teacher certification problem if Albany vetted Democratic Party-backed legislation with as wary an eye as they view anything proposed by a Republican.