Despite objections by many New Jersey colleges and universities back in 2015, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) is nearing the end of their two-year rollout of significant changes in preparing and certifying teachers. The purpose of the changes, according to a NJDOE letter sent to New Jersey schools on June 3, 2015, is to create “better and more rigorous standards, assessments, and evaluations across New Jersey. Studies show that, on average, teachers with some experience are more effective than brand new teachers, that teachers improve their performance the most early in their careers, and that the largest positive change in impact on student achievement occurs in the first one or two years of a teacher’s career.” The new requirements affect traditional and alternate route students, out-of-state candidates, and substitute teachers and will be fully implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.
In a November 4th, 2016 joint resolution,written by Dr. Thomas Smith, Hopewell Valley Regional School District Superintendent/Mercer County Administrators Association President, signed by all Mercer County Superintendents, that was sent to the NJDOE, Dr. Smith urged the New Jersey Legislature and the State Board of Education to reconsider changes to student teacher requirements, particularly the use of classroom videotaping.
“Videotaping (for purposes of assessment) is a student privacy concern. Videotapes are uploaded to a third-party server for scoring that we don’t have control of and we understand that Pearson (the third-party company) could keep the tapes for up to four years. Additionally, student teachers have to pay an additional $1200 for the videotaping process and the new assessment test.”
When Lawrence Township Public School Superintendent Dr. Crystal Edwards spoke about the changes at the last Board of Education meeting, she wanted to make it clear that videotaping student teachers has always been a constructive teaching tool to better themselves.
“Where it becomes problematic is when the student teacher needs to have an unedited, uninterrupted 15-minute video clip that would be uploaded to a third-party server for scoring. I believe at least five students need to be in the video which puts our kids out there somewhere,” said Dr. Edwards.
Both Dr. Edwards and Dr. Smith agree that changing the time commitment student teachers (half-year to full-year) must spend in a classroom does not sit well with current teachers and may not go over well with parents. Issues discussed included parent discontent that their children are being taught by a student teacher for the entire year and the increased burden on the experienced teacher that must teach his/her students and the student teacher for a full year.
Though the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District has currently decided not to accept student teachers for the 2017-2018 school year, the other Mercer County schools are planning to accept them.
“I think we would do a disservice to our profession if everyone stopped taking student teachers,” said Dr. Edwards.
“We want the best people possible in the classroom and we want this (student teacher requirement changes) to work well,” said Dr. Smith. “We have the least amount of kids going into the teaching profession than ever before. Why would the state ratchet up the requirements? It seems that they should work on making people happy to be teachers again.”