State University of New York Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher heard from more than 1,000 teachers and education professors on a listening tour of the state last year for ideas on bolstering New York's teaching ranks.
Feedback from that tour with state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia is reflected in a new SUNY TeachNY Policy on teacher preparation that SUNY trustees adopted Wednesday, said Zimpher.
The policy emphasizes a closer relationship between SUNY colleges and universities and elementary and secondary schools in providing new research opportunities, induction programs for new teachers and school district leaders and continuing education for teachers and school administrators. It also will commit SUNY to provide teacher candidates with access to teaching laboratories, as well as a full school year of clinical experiences.
Zimpher and Elia visited the University at Buffalo's South Campus last August as part of their statewide tour aimed at figuring out how to recruit the next generation to teaching, a profession that's found itself in the crosshairs in battles over education reform.
"The negative messages are just overwhelming," Zimpher said in an interview. "We need to lift up the sense of prestige and service."
Interest in pursuing teaching as a career is down, even as labor projections predict a potential shortage of teachers over the next decade due to a spurt of retirements. In SUNY teaching programs alone, enrollment has dropped 40 percent since 2009.
Zimpher said SUNY wants to educate a "more diverse population of teachers" to teach an increasingly diverse student population. In addition, she said, "We want more connection between the content you teach and how you teach."
SUNY teaching programs also should be offering on-campus laboratories where students can simulate being in a classroom, just as in chemistry laboratories, moot courts or allied health laboratories that are standard on any campus that provides those programs, she said. "We've got a long way to go," said Zimpher. "We have not had the collective will to get this done."
With the new TeachNY policy in place, presidents of SUNY campuses with teacher education programs will be required to report by June 30, 2018 a summary of campus-wide initiatives and strategies addressing the key areas of the new policy.