Saturday, July 29, 2017

Letter to SUNY Charter Committee Protesting Proposed Lowering of Teacher Standards

Dear Chairman Belluck and CUNY Charter Committee

      I am a Professor of African Studies and History at Fordham University, who has been a teacher, coach and professor for more than 50 years, and has spent the last 15 years doing community history programs in Bronx schools. I have watched, with some dismay, the emergence of disciplinary practices and employment practices in New York's best known and best financed  charter schools which violate the rights of students, teachers and families, and which also undermine what I have become convinced are best practices in the education of high needs students.  Foremost among the issues I have encountered, not only through first hand conversation with people in charter schools, but through research conducted by my own students, is high rates of turnover among charter school teachers due to excessive demands made on them by authoritarian administrators, and intimidating styles of management which discourage teachers from speaking honestly about what takes place in their classrooms. The result of this is that students in those schools do not have access to teachers who stay in their jobs a long time, who can be mentors for long periods and  and who have the courage  and standing to speak out against disciplinary practices which violate their professional conscience.

      Right now, charter school teaching is too often a revolving door career for recent college graduates who rarely come from the same background as the students they teach. That is something that needs to be changed, not reinforced. Students in high needs communities need teachers with extensive training, student teaching experience, and employment protections which allow them to speak out against excessive testing, zero tolerance disciplinary policies, and discrimination against ELL and Special Needs students, all of which can be found in too many of the best financed charter chains.  The current proposal moves us in the opposite direction from much needed oversight and reform in the Charter Sector in New York State. 

      The SUNY Charter School Institute should reject the proposal to lower standards of teacher certification in charter schools, and instead start designing measures designed to improve teacher quality, retention, and ethnic and cultural sensitivity in the Charter schools of New York State


Mark D Naison
Professor of African American Studies and History
Fordham University
Founder and Director
Bronx African American History Project


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