SUNY looks to reform education programs

SUNY administrators and education professors met on Nov. 15 to discuss an initiative to restructure teacher education programs across the SUNY system.

According to Anjoo Sikka, dean of the Ella Cline Shear School of Education, the initiative is called the Statewide Teacher Education Network.

Sikka said that each SUNY campus with teacher education programs has been asked to create a campus teacher education network. The members are encouraged to include community partners, school representatives and education faculty, as well as arts and sciences faculty.

According to Sikka, the C-TENs will work in conjunction with regional SUNY campuses to restructure teacher education around four principles: college core standards, data-driven instruction, clinically rich experiences for teacher candidates and performance assessments.

College core standards, or readiness standards, are set forth by the state to establish an expectation of students’ level of education after K-12 instruction. According to Sikka, many faculty members within the education department have already incorporated these standards into their curricula.

Data-driven instruction will likely involve the process of action research, or in-class research, Sikka said. This entails the collection of systematic data to recognize patterns of strength and weakness of certain subject areas in the classroom.

“Nationally, we’re very worried about students who are not being served well by [the] K-12 system,” she said. “Right now, SUNY is asking teacher education programs to train, prepare, educate and create a mindset among teacher candidates on how to use data to help students learn.”

In terms of clinically rich experiences, Sikka explained that practicum, internships, observations and student teaching all fall under this principle.

“A lot of teacher education programs are already doing this,” Sikka said. “The question is: How well are they working? We want to make sure [teacher candidates] are getting exposure but also that they’re actually benefiting from those experiences and reflecting on them. It’s not just about providing the experience; it’s about enhancing it.”

The last principle is performance assessments, whereby professors enter the K-12 school settings during students’ practicum to observe them. Subsequently, they discuss the teacher candidates’ approach and performance and provide feedback.

According to Sikka, the regional C-TENs will have four meetings throughout spring 2013 – one for each of the four designated principles.

“At the end of every meeting we will think about strategies we want to incorporate to restructure curriculum and programs,” she said. “By the end of spring we will write out a more complete action plan that will accumulate all the information. This will be our [Geneseo] action plan, which will be submitted to the SUNY system.”

C-TEN is the result of a $3.5 million grant from Race to the Top funds by the New York State Education Department. According to SUNY’s website, the initiative’s goal is to “develop and implement a comprehensive teacher and school leader education initiative in collaboration with SUNY faculty to advance the future of teacher and school leader preparation in order to meet the needs of New York state schools.”