Supers Not Sold on Teacher 'Bar Exam'

Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach and East Quogue school officials favor ensuring excellence, but are not convinced the governor's plan will do that.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State address last week, called for a "bar exam" to be put in place for teachers. The idea drew criticism by local district superintendents who said they are not convinced the proposed test will have an added benefit for students.

The idea behind the exam, at the recommendation of the New NY Education Reform Commission, is "to emphasize that teachers are professionals and should be held to the highest standards from the start."

Westhampton Beach Superintendent Mike Radday questioned the exam, saying, "In my opinion, the governor's negative rhetoric about public education and the current perception of public employees in general only makes it more difficult to draw the best and brightest to careers in teaching."

Instead, he suggested that perhaps the bar be raised for entry into teacher preparation programs, the "rigor of certificate exams" increased, and the quality of those programs improved "by making them more clinical in nature."

"Certainly we want to draw the best and brightest candidates to the teaching profession. We all want our students to have the best teachers possible," he said.

Robert Long, principal of East Quogue Elementary School, believes that a teacher bar exam is a "noble idea," but he said before it is implemented he would like to gather more information.

"What specific skills would be measured by the proposed exam?" he asked, adding that even if an exam was put in place, the district isn't looking to hire new teachers anytime soon.

"The 2% tax cap is not allowing for the hiring of new teachers," he said, noting further that he has serious concerns related to fiscal constraints and the uncertainty in the job market.

"The best and brightest minds may be resistant to entering the field of education, he said, pointing out that the district always strives to ensure that competent teachers are hired through reviews of candidates' transcripts and academic performance.

Lars Clemsensen, superintendent of Hampton Bays Schools, also questioned the proposal, saying that it should not be considered in isolation, but instead should be decided while also considering "the full complement of state and federal mandates that districts must manage locally."

This he said, "will truly will lead to greater student achievement."

RELATED: Supers: Extending School Easier Said Than Done

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