'Bar Exam' for Teachers?

January 24, 2013 Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 7:59 PM EDT

By Jason Gruenauer

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January 24, 2013 Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 7:59 PM EDT


BUFFALO (WKBW) Earlier this month during his State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo laid out his plan for state education, including this statement:

"And we should implement a bar exam type test that every teacher takes and must pass before we put them in a classroom to teach our students."

There are still a lot of details to be worked out, and it is not in the legislative phase yet, but the Governor's statement begs the question: Should all teachers in the state have to pass one "bar exam-type-test" to be certified to teach students?

A new Siena poll says yes. According to the poll, 76 percent of voters support a high level certification exam for teachers.

And so do members of the State School Board Association.

"We like the idea. I think a lot of details still need to be worked out, but we did a poll of school board members across the state and nearly six in ten supported the idea of a bar type exam for teachers," David Albert of the NYSSBA said Thursday.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents took a milder tone in its support of the idea.

"I don't think a standardized test can tell us who is going to be a great teacher. But what it can be useful for is sorting out people who shouldn't be teachers," Robert Lowry of the NYSCOSS said.

In the aftermath of the fight over teacher evaluation plans in many school districts, there is still disagreement over the best measure for evaluating a teacher; a bar-type exam or their student performance.

"We don't want to subject teachers to test after test, but at the end of the day we need to have some way of determining if that teacher is really prepared and if that teacher is really affective," Albert said.

"We don't see the bar exam being the be all and end all. We should use multiple factors for evaluating current teachers " Lowry added.

Eyewitness News reached out to superintendents and heads of local unions both in Buffalo and in Hamburg, two districts that had the biggest fights over teacher evaluations, but no one would comment on the idea of bar exams and what effect they could have on the local districts.