GPA minimum for School of Education questioned

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Screenshot of The Oswegonian article written by Justine Polonski

October 10, 2013

OSWEGO, N.Y. – Starting in the fall of 2015, the GPA requirements necessary to gain admissions to SUNY-system education programs will be raised to better prepare students for their future professions.

Barbara Garii is one of the associate deans of the School of Education at Oswego State. She voiced the change in admissions requirements from the point of view of the administration.

“Right now, while any entering first-year student may declare a teacher preparation major, all teacher candidates in the School of Education are required to maintain a 2.50 or better GPA to register for the courses in the major,” Garii said. “The new expectation is that entering first-year students will be required to have a high school GPA of 3.00 (B) or better to declare a teacher preparation major in the School of Education upon entry to SUNY Oswego.”

As for students who enter as non-education majors but change degree programs and enter the School of Education, the requirement is that they have to have a 3.00 GPA or better in their previous college classes, Garii said.

“The SUNY System, in line with recommendations from the governor’s office, is ensuring that teacher candidates are well-prepared for the profession,” Garii said. “Thus, the 3.00 GPA recommendation supports the rigor associated with teacher preparation.”

David Doyle is the director of communications at the State University of New York. From Doyle’s more SUNY-oriented standpoint, most of the change is about the big picture.

The whole point of this idea is to improve education in New York State and to increase the academic standards of the SUNY system, Doyle said. Both of these goals are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s agenda items on improving education in New York.

“The quality of New York’s higher education system depends on having the best and brightest teachers in our classrooms teaching our students,” Gov. Cuomo said in a recent press release. “These new admission requirements will help ensure that we are recruiting from exceptional candidates to educate our state’s students. I applaud this action by SUNY to continue striving for higher standards and better results.”

SUNY’s mission is to increase the standard of admission, uniformly across the system of public universities, Doyle said.

SUNY is currently the number one provider of teachers in New York State. The SUNY system supplies five thousand new teachers every year, which totals around one-fourth of all of the teachers in the state.

“When SUNY makes a move like this, the effect is substantial,” Doyle said.

As Garii said, one of the new requirements is a minimum of a 3.00 GPA in applicants. However, it is not only that.

Doyle said that applicants can either have a GPA of 3.00, or be ranked in the top 30 percent of their graduating class.

For students at some SUNY schools, registration for education program does not occur until as late as junior year, so at those schools, students have the first two years of their college careers to meet the GPA requirement necessary to enter the education program, Doyle said.

The GPA requirements for students after being registered for the education programs are not changed by these new SUNY-wide requirements. They are not uniform across the system, and will remain at whichever level they are now, despite the new standards, Doyle said.

This change is most definitely a positive development, Doyle said. The impact will make SUNY education programs more prestigious and competitive.

And in addition to better academic standards for future teachers and creating higher quality programs across the SUNY system, the K-12 students reap the benefits too, as they get better educated teachers in the classrooms.

“New York’s children deserve outstanding teachers and mentors, and the new admission requirements put in place by SUNY will help ensure that all students, and the schools they attend, can be more successful,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher in a press release. “SUNY prepares thousands of New York’s teachers and school leaders every year and by raising this bar we can help improve educational outcomes in New York. We are thankful for Governor Cuomo’s continued commitment to education and his advocacy for all our students.”

These changes in academic requirements should not have an impact on the output of teachers from the SUNY system, Doyle said. It should simply improve the quality of the teachers being sent into the field.

“These are the kind of individuals who you want in a classroom,” Doyle said.

From the point of view of some of the professors at Oswego State, however, this change in requirements is not a positive one. Adjunct Professor Leah Russell is of this viewpoint on the matter.

This change is completely arbitrary, and will have a negative effect on the education programs, Russell said.

They are dismissing students who, “based on a number, people who are deserving and qualified in other ways, and have qualities that we look for and that we need in teachers in our education system,” Russell said.

“Although I understand that what they are trying to do is up the bar, what they’re actually doing is creating a more narrow definition of the bar, not raising it,” Russell said. “They’re being exclusive in a way that will decrease chance for diversity of perspective and background, and will prevent people from becoming teachers that have the potential to be some of the best teachers because of the life experiences that they have had, not because of the grades that they got.”

Academic perfection is not all that should be considered in applicants. Applicants who were working a full-time job while going to school may not have the grades to cut it, but they have more experience than many students, Russell said.

“Part of the emphasis on grades is, that’s what the emphasis is for the students: are they scoring well on exams,” Russell said. “So, the entire system is focused on looking at the student as a number, as a performance of intellectual ability. The focus is on the product not the process. You have to expect and demand the same quality of your teachers that you hope to achieve with your student population.”

Carole Pearsall is a sophomore childhood education major with a concentration in the arts at Oswego State.

“I am glad they didn’t have those requirements when I applied, or else I wouldn’t be at Oswego,” Pearsall said. “This is the only place that accepted me, so I probably wouldn’t even be in college right now.”

These requirements could improve the output of teachers by the SUNY system, but it could also hinder the qualifications of the teachers that the system has to work with.

Education

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