Help Educators Teach Higher-Level Skills

As highlighted in a recent report from the Center for New York City Affairs, only 29% of the students in New York City’s class of 2012 were exempt from taking remedial courses at the City University of New York because they earned a Regents diploma and achieved acceptable scores on the English and math Regents exams. This very low percentage of college-ready students is less surprising once you factor in another of the Center’s findings: many teachers, spread thin, were prioritizing boosting graduation rates and preparing students to meet the minimum requirements on state exams (two important indicators for which they are increasingly being held accountable) rather readying students for college-level work, which they saw as a higher bar.

On a related note, our own statewide study (see this December 2012 report) found many teachers are inadequately prepared and under-supported, often for lack of resources at the school level, to address their professional learning needs in a way that would allow them to meet their students’ needs. Consider the following examples:

In the vast majority of schools (28 of 33), in one or more core subject areas (English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies), students were being taught by teachers who were not adequately trained to provide effective instruction for students struggling academically. The percentage of classroom and core subject area teachers whose training and effectiveness were deemed inadequate ranged from a low of 7% to a high of 80%, with an average among all 33 schools of 20%.

On average, the schools reported that over half of these teachers could become effective with sufficient professional development and supports, but schools lacked the resources to provide these. Eighteen schools reported that, on average, 35% of their special education teachers were not adequately trained to meet the needs of students in their classes.

Nearly all schools (30 of 33) lacked sufficient assistant principals, department heads, or other administrators to carry out mandated annual professional performance reviews and provide professional support to teachers. Five schools were unable to provide any mentoring for new teachers.

New York needs to put its resources where its standards are. Raising standards and speeches peppered with “accountability” tough talk will not make New York’s children college ready. It’s time to hold the state and city accountable for providing the resources for professional development and other capacity-building opportunities that will empower New York teachers to ensure that New York students are truly college ready.

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