Clarion Masthead

Letters to the Editor

Response to PSC on NY’s New Teacher Test

The May Clarion reported on the PSC’s opposition to edTPA, New York’s new performance assessment for teacher certification. While the union’s resolution was passed by the Delegate Assembly, it does not necessarily reflect the sentiments of all CUNY education faculty.

The article also makes inaccurate claims.

Claim: edTPA outsources evaluation to a private corporation, Pearson. Fact: edTPA was developed by hundreds of educators across the country in a process led by Stanford University’s Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) with support from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Pearson is an operational partner (much like the publisher of a text), responsible for creating and managing the assessment’s online platform. EdTPA is scored by experienced educators, selected and trained by a rigorous SCALE-designed process.

Claim: edTPA has no research base. Fact: edTPA is based on 25 years of research and practice from nationally representative educators and major professional associations.

Claim: edTPA demands a single approach to teaching. Fact: edTPA is a frame with room for different approaches that reflects national consensus on foundational teaching practices.

Claim: edTPA fails to consider the diverse communities teacher education programs serve. Fact: edTPA asks teachers to demonstrate they understand and are responsive to students’ cultural, linguistic and learning backgrounds.

Claim: edTPA takes student evaluation out of faculty’s hands. Fact: edTPA complements faculty input from courses and clinical experiences, prompting faculty to develop more program coherence.

Because edTPA asks new teachers to demonstrate they are ready to teach before assuming responsibility for children’s lives, many believe it strengthens teaching and the profession.

Beverly Falk
City College

Three CUNY education faculty members-- David Gerwin (Queens College), Ruth Powers Silverberg (College of Staten Island) and Peter Taubman (Brooklyn College)-– respond:

Professor Falk’s suggestion that the PSC is out of step with teacher educators is inaccurate. The PSC resolution on edTPA represents the views of hundreds of teacher educators in CUNY and across New York. New York State United Teachers and SUNY’s United University Professions also adopted the substance of the PSC resolution. Falk personally presented her views to the PSC Delegate Assembly before it voted, but gained few adherents. The rest of Professor Falk’s arguments are drawn from talking points published by SCALE and present a skewed picture of edTPA.

Pearson is not simply an “operational partner.” Pearson recruits, hires, and pays the scorers for the assessment. Pearson profits, charging students $300 for the exam, $200 for a review, and $100 to retake a section. Teacher candidates must transfer copyright on their work to Pearson.

Our colleagues across New York City have found that edTPA’s implementation creates two tiers of education schools: those that can afford to hire videographers and demand student-teaching placements that look good on video, and those programs whose students borrow a camera or use an iPhone. In addition, the high-stakes nature of this single assessment narrows the focus of teacher preparation to rubrics designed elsewhere. All of this is occurring with an absence of solid evidence that edTPA has predictive validity for new-teacher performance, a point Falk obscures with her claim of years of research.

An educator who supports edTPA is free to use it as a final gate for his or her teacher candidates. But edTPA is a model without established predictive validity, and no one should force it on others through state certification. The mandatory implementation of edTPA seems the very antithesis of academic freedom, professional authority, scholarly collaboration, and the commitment to public education that we cherish and that we wish to instill in our teachers.


Bargaining on Adjunct Pay

An across-the-board percentage increase for all faculty does not move adjunct faculty toward financial equity with full-time faculty. In absolute terms it actually widens the gap. I hope our negotiating team remembers the PSC’s stated goal of significant movement toward equity for adjunct faculty when they sit across the table from management. We need a significant amount added to our pay for each course, along with an across-the-board percentage increase for any real movement toward equity to be realized.

To illustrate the inequity of across-the-board increases, I made this back-of-the-envelope calculation. I usually teach six courses per year. As an adjunct lecturer at the top step, my annual pay before taxes is $24,210. This is my primary source of income and has been for many years. For me, a 3% increase would raise my salary by $726, so I would earn $24,936. Many adjuncts are not able to get three courses each semester, and more typically earn much less than $20,000 – for them it is much worse!

That same 3% increase for a full-time assistant professor earning $75,000 would be $2,250, making the new salary $77,250. The absolute gap would have widened from $50,790 to $52,314. Would anyone call this movement toward equity?

Arlene Geiger
John Jay College

PSC Treasurer Mike Fabricant responds: As a member of the PSC negotiating team, I want to acknowledge Arlene Geiger’s rightful frustration with the two-tiered labor system at CUNY and across the nation. This system has constrained the lives of many part-time faculty who have been working for too little for far too long.

For the past 14 years the union has worked to address issues of inequity for part-time faculty and other parts of the bargaining unit. We successfully negotiated an office hour for part-time faculty – a pay increase of as much as 17% for adjuncts teaching six hours or more. In the last contract, the union secured a substantial bump of over 13% to the top salary step for part-time faculty lecturers. The PSC leadership also allocated millions of dollars from the 2002-2007 contract settlement to preserve health insurance coverage for part-time faculty. To a significant extent, that meant redistributing dollars from full-time members to eligible part-time faculty. These actions and many others have been part of an explicit goal of the PSC bargaining team to target additional dollars to lower-paid parts of the bargaining unit, which also include groups such as assistants to HEO and junior faculty, to address historic inequities.

That said, these real gains for part-time faculty have certainly not fixed the labor tear that runs right across the fabric of CUNY, and much more must be done. Inequity for contingent faculty sits on a three-legged stool: job insecurity, unstable health care and low pay. We are making progress toward a more stable form of health care for part-time faculty. An advance in job security for contingent faculty is a priority for the bargaining team in this round. Regarding pay parity, I would dispute parts of Ms. Geiger’s analysis while agreeing that more needs to be done. Our shared struggle is to oppose the austerity that marks the current negotiating landscape and work for the gains that every part of our bargaining unit deserves


Contingent Coverage

I recently visited the PSC office (to see Marcia Newfield, VP for Part-time Personnel) and picked up a copy of the May Clarion. A wonderful publication! I was particularly interested in Janine Jackson’s article, which is the best analysis of the recent news coverage of contingent faculty issues that I have seen.

I am sending her article out to a contingent activists’ (and allies) news aggregator that I produce, COCAL Updates, for the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor. This sort of good work deserves to be widely read in the movement.
Thanks for publishing it and thanks to Janine Jackson for writing it.

Joe Berry
Editor, COCAL Updates

Editor’s note: To subscribe to COCAL Updates, email joeberry@igc.org.

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[Letters to the editor on the Working Families Party's decision to endorse Gov. Cuomo can be found here.]