SUNY Adopts Tougher Admissions Standards for Teacher Training Programs

The State University of New York is planning to raise the bar on admissions requirements to its teacher education programs to improve the quality of future educators. The program will set a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0 and will also demand that candidates get higher scores on the Graduate Record Examination in order to become students in both the teacher preparation and principal training courses.

The changes will affect all 17 education programs in the SUNY system. SUNY graduates one in four of the state's new teachers and principals every year.

The move has strong support from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. In a statement, Cuomo said that all of New York's education reform efforts depend on producing the best quality educators it can, and the first step on that path is to set higher minimum standards for who can become a teacher in New York.

Teacher education programs have come under fire as U.S. students slip behind other nations in international standardized testing. Education schools have become "an industry of mediocrity," according to a controversial report released earlier this year by the National Council on Teacher Quality and U.S. News & World Report. The report, which was the first comprehensive look at the nation's 1,100 teacher preparation programs, found that nine out of 10 don't properly teach basics like English, math, science and history. It was widely criticized by education school deans and teachers union leaders.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher pushed for the changes, which she said will improve the state's educational outcomes.

According to Scott Waldman of the Albany Times-Union, tougher admissions standards aren't the only reform to teacher education programs that Cuomo is pushing. He has also in the past expressed support for teacher "bar exams," a comprehensive post-graduation test akin to the one required for law school graduates. Even president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten thought a bar exam for teachers would be a good idea, but it was not part of the slate of reforms announced this week.

The more stringent requirements are supported by New York State United Teachers, spokesman Carl Korn said. He said the changes could have been strengthened by including actual higher education faculty in drafting them. Still, he said the changes would benefit classrooms.

"When the pipeline of teacher candidates is full of high-achieving students, that bodes well for the future of the profession," he said.

In other countries, teacher preparation programs have stiff admissions requirements, ensuring that candidates are from the top tier of their graduating class.

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