Image of a teacher reading a book to young students
Teacher reading to young students, c. 1928

Teacher Training and Certification.
State support for teacher education began with legislative acts of 1827 and 1834, which authorized the Regents to distribute monies from the Literature Fund to certain academies designated to train teachers for the common schools. Many observers were dissatisfied with the academy teacher training programs, and the Legislature in 1844 established a model normal school at Albany to educate secondary school teachers. Eleven other state normal schools were established between 1862 and 1893 to train primary school teachers. A few cities established training schools for elementary teachers in the 1880s, and by 1915 a dozen two-year city programs were operating. State-funded, tuition-free, one-year training classes for rural school teachers were offered in selected rural high schools starting in 1889. In-service training was provided in annual day-long "teachers' institutes" held in each county. The institutes began to get state aid in 1847, proved popular, and continued until 1912.

Teacher certification was at first local and informal. Between 1814 and 1856 town school officials had the authority to examine and license teachers; the law prescribed no qualifications except good moral character and ability to teach. Still, no one could teach in a public school without a certificate. State school authorities and sympathetic legislators and teachers have worked continually to improve the procedures and standards for teacher certification; the greatest progress occurred in the 1880s and '90s, and the 1920s and '30s. Allies in the cause were the normal schools and colleges, and the New York State Teachers Association, founded in 1845. Normal school graduates were automatically certified to teach, but the supply was far smaller than the demand. The state continued to employ other types of certificates. Between 1856 and 1912 the School Commissioners issued most teacher certificates outside of cities. The 1864 school law required them to offer examinations instead of relying on personal recommendations. In 1887 the Governor vetoed a bill requiring uniform statewide certification exams for public school teachers outside of cities. Superintendent Andrew S. Draper determined that he already had the legal authority to give the exams, and did so. Educators, the press, and the Regents applauded this bold move. The revised Education Law of 1910 positively required all teachers to be certified. Examining and licensing of teachers in cities continued to be governed by city charters or special laws. The state minimum legal standards for teacher training and certification applied to city school districts starting 1897, and most smaller cities used the state teacher examinations. New York City continued to examine and license teachers until 1990.

Before 1924 it was possible to teach in a rural school with just a high school diploma and a temporary license; by 1936 a four-year degree program was required for all new teachers. Assistant Commissioners J. Cayce Morrison (elementary education) and Hermann Cooper (teacher education and certification) led the Department's successful effort to raise the standards for teaching during the 1920s and '30s. Economic factors made the great leap possible. World War I brought a serious shortage of qualified teachers because inflation outstripped salaries. A statewide mini-increases in state aid (1920s) helped schools attract better talent. In 1921 the Department and the Regents determined to end teacher certification by examination and to require professional education for all new teachers. The normal school program was extended from two to three years starting 1922. Certification examinations were discontinued in 1924-26 and the teacher training classes in 1933. After 1930 liberal arts graduates entering teaching were required to have taken professional courses. All these changes resulted in uniform educational qualifications for all teachers, urban and rural. Because of the surplus of teachers during the Depression, a four-year program leading to a bachelor's degree and continuing in-service training could now be required for permanent certification (1936-38). The State Teachers Association agreed to these regulations after lengthy discussions with the Department. Soon a fifth year of study was added for high school teachers (1943); and much later, for elementary teachers (1966). During the years between the two world wars certification programs were initiated for school principals, librarians, psychologists, and vocational teachers. Uniform statewide standards for school superintendents went into effect in 1937.

The "baby boom' generation after World War II was an era of teacher shortages, as school enrollments expanded everywhere in the state, but especially in the suburbs. In 1949 the Regents approved reciprocal agreements with New Jersey and several New England states, by which New York provisionally accepted teaching credentials issued by them. (New York enacted the uniform inter-state reciprocity statute in 1968.) In 1951 a new, more formal process was set up for certification on recommendation of approved teacher education programs, but nearly half of all certificates issued were still based on assessment of individual preparation. To facilitate this process, the Regents and the Department obtained help from the Ford Foundation in 1962 to initiate a new program of teacher certification proficiency examinations. After 1968 primary responsibility for teacher training curricula was devolved to educational institutions, and in 1972 the Regents began promoting competency-based teacher preparation. The New York State Teacher Certification Examinations were developed for the Department by a testing service and include several quite rigorous tests: a Liberal Arts and Sciences Test and a written assessment of Teaching Skills, for provisional certification; and a Content Specialty Test and a video-taped Assessment of Teaching Skills, for permanent certification. In recent years regional certification offices have been opened in BOCES centers, where credentials are evaluated and certification is recommended. More than 200,000 teachers, administrators, and counselors are currently certified in New York. A state examining board for teaching certification was set up in 1894. The present Regents Teacher Education, Certification and Practice Board was established in 1963.

Much effort has gone into improving continuing education for teachers, starting in the late 1950s with federal aid for programs in science, mathematics, and languages. The Department's curriculum and assessment unit has many advisory and training services for teachers (including summer teachers' institutes). Special initiatives in science education are funded by the National Science Foundation. After 1984 teacher-directed Teacher Resource and Computer Training Centers trained teachers in new technologies and teaching methods. Training has been strengthened by the major review of doctoral programs in education during the 1980s and the ongoing review of entry-level teacher education programs. In the 1950s and since the 1970s the Regents and the Department have recommended that teaching be made a legally-recognized, licensed profession. A Regents plan for "Public School Teaching as a Profession' (1989) has guided improvements in teacher preparation and certification, with an emphasis on recruiting more teachers from minority groups.

Public school teachers were afforded some statutory protection against arbitrary dismissal in 1889; the protection was strengthened in 1909. The charters of New York City (1898) and of a few other cities provided for granting of tenure to teachers. The Legislature enacted a system of teacher probation and tenure for all city school districts in 1917; this system was extended to the larger village districts in 1937, and to the smaller multi-teacher districts ten years later. Since 1970, the Department has administered an arbitration process for disciplinary charges against tenured teachers by boards of education.

Higher Education Oversight and Planning

Since 1784 the Regents have had the authority to charter, visit, and inspect institutions of higher learning. This mandate embodies great potential for developing and overseeing an integrated system of advanced education in New York. From the start the Regents incorporated academies and colleges. For several decades the Legislature also granted charters (usually to institutions that could not meet the Regents' higher standards for endowment, facilities, and program). All chartered institutions of learning were required to submit annual statistical reports to the Regents. A general law of 1853 standardized Regents chartering of academies, colleges, and universities. From the 1860s on the Regents held annual convocations of representatives from institutions making up the University of the State of New York. These events were the first regular, working meetings of educators from around the state; they fostered a sense of common mission.

The "University Law" of 1892 and an 1897 revision (both drafted by Secretary Melvil Dewey) expanded the Regents' oversight of higher education. The new rules established stricter standards for incorporation and authorized regular registration and inspection of colleges and universities. (Registration helped establish and enforce the education requirements for the growing number of professions licensed by the Regents.) The Regents began formally registering courses of study in colleges, universities, and professional schools, in- and out-of-state, in 1897. A report by the- Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching declared a few years later that the Board of Regents was the only state body with real authority "to supervise or even to criticize' higher education; in New York "the term col*e has a definite meaning." Regents rules of 1908 and subsequent years contained increasingly more detailed requirements for registration of professional and pre-professional degree programs. The Department's oversight responsibilities were increased by the "Korean GI Bill of Rights' of 1952, which required each state to review and approve proposals for curricula eligible for veterans' benefits. The Board of Regents was recognized by the federal government as an accrediting body for post-secondary institutions-the only state board of education ever to achieve that status. In reviewing and registering programs, the Department has for decades cooperated closely with the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges and other private accrediting associations.

Registration continued to be voluntary, and some degree programs were never registered. In 1972 the grams of study in colleges and other degree-granting schools in New York, and required that programs show evidence of "careful planning.' The official Inventory of Registered Programs (IRP) was automated in 1978 and now contains data on 18,500 degree and certificate programs. Registration of institutions and programs is the basis for determining program eligibility for state student aid programs and for professional licensure or teacher certification. The fiscal and program data on higher education in New York is provided to state and federal oversight agencies and to the general public. In 1992 the governor designated the Department to assist the U.S. Department of Education in determining institutional eligibility for federal student assistance programs. The Department's Office of Higher Education also conducts ongoing research on policy and management issues facing post-secondary institutions and helps coordinate statewide telecommunications development for higher education.

The authority of the Regents over higher education was augmented in 1927 when the state teachers' colleges and normal schools, the specialized "contract" colleges, and the six schools of agriculture were placed under direct supervision of the Education Department. (Previously these institutions had their own boards of managers which had considerable autonomy.) During the Depression of the 1930s the Regents and the Department focused their attention on elementary and secondary education. Planning for higher education projected improvements to the existing system. The final report of the Regents' Inquiry into the Character and Cost of Public Education (1935-38) and Department studies during World War II declared that New York should rely on its system of private higher education, recommended a large increase in the number of Regents college scholarships, and concluded that New York should not establish a state university or a system of junior colleges. (The Department did hope to increase greatly the number of state-run two-year technical institutes.)

Over one hundred thousand returning New York veterans expressed interest in higher education under the "GI Bill of Rights." This unprecedented demand moved Governor Thomas E. Dewey to establish a Temporary Commission on the Need for a State University. Former Regent Owen D. Young chaired the Commission, on which the Commissioner and the Chancellor served. In early 1948 the Commission recommended formation of a state university, which would include all the state-run colleges and institutes as well as a new system of community colleges and two new medical centers (at Syracuse and Brooklyn). However, the Regents opposed, unsuccessfully, the ensuing Governor's program bills-which left the proposed community colleges under local instead of state control, and left ambiguous the role of the Regents and the Department in overseeing the State University. The State University of New York (SUNY) was established July 1, 1948; the law stated that it was "created in" the Education Department, and that the Regents were to have "general supervision and approval" of SUNYs budget, planning, and administration. (For a decade Department research staff "on loan" helped design and implement the SUNY system.) After disagreements with the SUNY trustees, the Regents attempted in 1949, unsuccessfully, to obtain passage of the Condon-Barrett bill, which would have placed SUNY fully under its control. In 1961 the State University system was made independent of the Regents, except as a part of the larger University of the State of New York.

The great expansion of colleges and universities during the 1960s brought new demands, and new opportunities, for monitoring and coordinating higher education in New York. The Committee to Review Higher Education Needs and Facilities (Heald Commission) recommended to Governor Rockefeller and the Regents in 1960 that the Department prepare a quadrennial master plan for higher education. Mandated by statute and first delivered to the Governor and the Legislature in 1964, the master plans establish Regents' policies and guide legislative initiatives in the field of higher education. The plans are also a convenient source of summary data about higher education in New York-SUNY, CUNY, and private institutions. The statistical data on higher education are now generated from the Higher Education Data System, or HEDS. The system began to be developed in 1973 and in recent years has been based in networked micro-computers. The Department also reviews and approves institutional master plans and amendments. Regents sponsored studies of doctoral education in 1970 and 1973 pointed out the need for stricter standards. Since 1973 the Department's doctoral program reviews have resulted in many closures and consolidations of these expensive, sometimes duplicative programs. The Regents also can order entire institutions to close (since 1971 about fifty degree-granting institutions have closed or merged, either voluntarily or by Commissioner's order).

The Regents and the Department have established innovative programs for adults wishing to earn college credits and degrees. The Regents approved giving school and college credit to World War II veterans for military education and experience. College Proficiency Examinations were introduced in 1963, initially to help teachers and nurses complete educational requirements. This popular program (now called Regents College Examinations) continues to give degree credits for non-college learning. With strong leadership from Commissioner Nyquist and grants from the Ford and Carnegie Foundations, the University of the State of New York established the Regents External Degrees program. The first degrees were conferred in 1972, based on college credits earned through college proficiency exams and classroom and correspondence courses. The Regents College Degrees and Programs became fully independent of the Education Department in 1991 but continues to be governed by the Board of Regents.

Proprietary School Supervision

The Department has monitored and regulated private for-profit schools since the early twentieth century. Starting in 1910 private trade schools were required to be licensed and inspected. In 1923 the licensing requirement was extended to correspondence schools operating in the state. Private business schools began to be registered voluntarily in 1936, and two years later trade and correspondence schools were required to renew their licenses or certificates annually. Financial and educational standards for proprietary institutions were strengthened by a 1945 law. That same year the Department started inspecting and approving for-profit schools eligible to educate veterans receiving aid under the "GI Bill of Rights."

The advent of general post-secondary student aid programs (state and federal) during the 1960s and '70s increased the demand for non-degree trade and business education, and also increased the need for quality controls over finances and programs of proprietary schools. A 1972 statute nearly doubled the number of vocational schools requiring a Department evaluation and license. The Commissioner's regulations for proprietary schools were strengthened in the late 1970s.. A major new statute in 1990 required proprietary schools to disclose and report their finances and programs, and contribute to a tuition reimbursement fund. The Department also registers associate degree programs in private, for-profit colleges, mostly in the field of business. Currently the Department oversees about 250 non-degree granting proprietary school-about the same as the number of degree-granting institutions in New York.

Scholarship and Opportunity Programs

Extensive financial aid programs for talented and disadvantaged college students have been one of New York's proudest accomplishments. In 1886 the Legislature approved a limited number of scholarships for students attending Cornell University. Commissioner Draper in 1913 obtained legislative funding for Regents college scholarships, awarded competitively on the basis of scores on Regents high school exams. After 1944 the Regents scholarship examination came into use. The Legislature established new scholarships for children of deceased or disabled veterans, and for students of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and engineering. In 1961 legislation doubled the number of Regents college scholarships (to about ten per cent of high school graduates) and established non-competitive scholar incentive awards for undergraduate or graduate study. Besides indirect aid through state-funded scholarships and awards, the Legislature in 1968 approved direct annual aid to private colleges and universities (called "Bundy Aid" from the chairman of the panel that recommended it). Bundy Aid is based on the number of earned degrees granted. It offsets somewhat a student recruitment advantage held by the publicly-funded SUNY and CUNY.

The State's fiscal crisis of the early 1970s brought major changes in student assistance programs. The generous Regents graduate fellowships were abolished. In 1974 the Legislature established new "Tuition Assistance Program" (TAP) awards which varied according to income but provided more student aid overall-as the Regents had been recommending. The Department's student assistance program and staff were transferred to a new Higher Education Services Corporation in 1975. Regents college scholarships were first reduced to a flat $250 in 1974, and finally discontinued in 1991.

The Education Department continues to administer programs to promote "equity and access" in higher education. The Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) was established in 1969 to help "economically and educationally disadvantaged" college students. Under HEOP the Commissioner contracts with private colleges and universities to provide financial and educational assistance to high school graduates who could not have continued their education otherwise. With the state's increasing financial problems, HEOP (like the Bundy Aid) in recent years has not been funded at full statutory levels. HEOP was joined in the later 1980s by other special state-funded programs (recommended by the Regents master plan for higher education): the Science and Technology Entry Programs (STEP and C-STEP), helping minority or poor students in high school and college to embark on careers in scientific, technical, or health-related fields; and the Liberty Partnerships, giving educational and personal support to promising poor and minority youths who might drop out of high school. The Department administers several other state or federal scholarship programs. It also encourages tutoring, mentoring, and other cooperative programs by colleges for high school students across the state--complementing the new 'school-to-work" programs.


Last Updated: November 25, 2008