Dr. Joyce Coppin
It's a Friday afternoon, and Dr. Joyce R. Coppin, Chief Executive of the Division of Human Resources and the Center for Recruitment and Professional Development for the Department of Education, apologizes for being late (by only 10 minutes)—she was at a meeting, "having fun." As the interview proceeds, it's clear that "fun" for this top administrator who oversees recruiting, placement and training, including retention initiatives for over 200,000 full and part-time public school employees means both challenge and excitement. The position has grown over the years, both in numbers and programs. With close to 80,000 new teaching staff to integrate into the system, new licensing areas, especially in bi-lingual education, and structures to streamline policies and procedures, Dr. Coppin has her hands full implementing decisions and determining effective ways to market what she thinks of still, after all the years, as one of the most exciting professions in the world—teaching. She is aware of the differences between her own student days and 2004. When she grew up, all of her friends either directly or indirectly went into education; today, she sighs, not one of the children from that generation has gone into teaching.
Joyce Coppin is eager to change attitudes but she does not make light of the difficulties. Graduates today not only find higher paid teaching positions outside New York City but more financially rewarding careers. Still, the new "pathways" for becoming a New York City public school teacher have certainly eased passage to certification and hiring. In addition to the traditional path whereby students major in teaching preparation programs and take the requisite exams, there is entry through the Teaching Fellows program (two exams to determine readiness, 200 hours of pre-service training, classroom observation and enrollment in a registered alternative program). Then, too, the Department of Education welcomes international students, especially in the "shortage areas" of math, science, bi-lingual and special education. A fourth path, Dr. Coppin notes, is open to students who qualify under the State's Transcription Evaluation program. This group includes prospective full-time teachers who may have taught before or who have enough credits to meet certification requirements but have not been in a regular program.
With 97% of New York City teachers now certified, a remarkable turnaround from conditions of only a few years ago, Dr. Coppin says she would like to turn even more attention to retention and to recruiting even higher quality teachers. By providing beginning teachers with nurturing and support, by having supervisors work "intensively and individually" on concerns that new teachers who leave the system have themselves identified on exit surveys as major concerns—classroom management, individualizing instruction, and effective discipline strategies—Dr. Coppin hopes to make a difference at the 14 colleges where Teaching Fellows programs have already taken root, and at the high school level, where recruitment for promising new teachers might be instituted, "the earlier the better," she says.#