Certification primer for new teachers

by Anne Millman

Mar 2, 2006 12:46 PM

Do you know whether you have a Provisional or Initial Certificate? Are you clear about your requirements under a Transitional A or Transitional B Certificate? Are you aware of your deadlines for completing your requirements if you are working under an Extended or Renewed Provisional Certificate?

If you are confused about these and other aspects of your state certification, you’re not alone. In recent years, the State Education Department (SED) increased the number of certificate categories to more than 10, each with different requirements and deadlines. And the UFT is fielding many of the questions of newer teachers looking for clear, understandable and reliable answers.

“The state provided alternative routes to certification to give prospective teachers greater flexibility, and that’s a good thing,” notes Ann Rosen, UFT special representative for certification and licensing. “But new teachers don’t always know which type of certificate they have, and that could get them into trouble if they don’t understand their requirements and meet their deadlines.”

To help teachers find their way, Rosen tracks all the SED changes and trains a team of UFT consultants and educational liaisons. They, in turn, offer workshops in schools and respond to teachers’ questions in person, by telephone and via e-mail.

To address the most common points of confusion, Rosen helped prepare this brief description of the various certification categories. If you want fuller information, make an appointment with the UFT Certification Services Department at UFT headquarters at 52 Broadway (1-212-420-1830). You can also speak to an educational liaison in your UFT borough office or call or e-mail TeacherLine.

Check your credentials

To answer any questions about your certification, you first must know the type of certificate you currently hold. You’ll find that by checking the face of your state certificate. Once you know your certificate type and the expiration date, it’s possible to determine the requirements you need to fulfill and the amount of time you have to complete them.

Here are the most common types of certificates teachers hold:

Provisional Certificate. This is an entry-level certificate that the SED stopped issuing after Feb. 1, 2004. If you hold this certificate, you must complete the following requirements for a permanent certificate before your provisional certificate expires — five years from the effective date:

A master’s degree. The UFT Teacher Center, in collaboration with area colleges, offers master’s degree programs, some at reduced rates, to help you meet this requirement. Also, check the SED Web site www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert for other options.
A passing grade on your Content Specialty Test (CST) and the ATS-P (the performance video), if required for your certificate. The UFT Teacher Center holds coaching sessions to prepare you for the ATS-P. Look for announcements on this page, in New York Teacher ads and at www.ufttc.org.

Permanent Certificate. This is the certificate issued to anyone with a valid provisional certificate issued on or before Feb. 1, 2004, who completes all requirements and files an application before the provisional certificate expires.

Initial Certificate. This entry-level certificate became available on Sept. 1, 2004, under the new state requirements. With this certificate, you have five years from the issue date to complete your requirements for a professional certificate:

A master’s degree;

12 graduate credits in the certificate area’s content core or a related field;

Three years of full-time teaching experience;

One year of mentoring; and

U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

Professional Certificate. With this advanced certificate, you have met all current state requirements. However, even after you achieve your professional certificate, the SED requires you to complete 175 hours of professional development (35 hours per year) within five years of the effective date to keep your certificate valid. This requirement must be met every five years to maintain this certificate.

The UFT is urging the DOE to credit teachers for the mandated professional development they take each year during the four days designated for staff development and at other times during the school day under the terms of the new contract. Until an agreement is reached with the DOE, the union urges you to keep in your personal file a log and all paperwork showing the professional development you have taken.

Special situations

Under special circumstances, the SED may issue temporary certificates to candidates who do not meet all the qualifications for an initial certificate but who fill a specific educational/recruitment need. Here are a few examples:

Conditional Initial Certificate. The SED may issue a conditional initial certificate to candidates who hold a teaching certificate in the same or equivalent title from another state that is party to the Interstate Reciprocity Agreement but who do not meet all New York State requirements. If you hold this temporary certificate, you must meet the following requirements within two years of the issue date:

Pass the LAST, ATS-W and CST certification exams (the UFT Teacher Center offers coaching sessions for the LAST and ATS-W exams);

Complete the Child Abuse Recognition Workshop (available at low cost through the UFT); and

Complete the Violence Prevention Training Workshop (offered through the UFT School Safety Department).

In addition, within five years of the effective date of your conditional initial certificate, you must complete all requirements for the professional certificate.

Extended Certificate. Rarely, the SED issues this temporary certificate to give a candidate with a provisional certificate some extra time to complete all requirements for permanent certification. If you hold an extended certificate, be sure to fulfill your remaining requirements within the time limits specified in the extension. The state will not grant a second extension.

Transitional A Certificate. Districts which need teachers in specific technical or vocational fields may offer this temporary certificate to candidates who have related work experience but who do not meet all the requirements for an initial certificate. With this certificate, you have three years from the issue date to complete the requirements for an initial certificate.

Transitional B Certificate. This temporary certificate is issued to those enrolled in an alternative teacher certification program, such as Teaching Fellows. The college in which you are enrolled for the master’s degree under this alternative teacher certification program filed your application with the SED for a Transitional B certificate. The title of your Transitional B certificate should match the master’s program in which you are enrolled and the teaching position you hold. If they don’t match, contact the DOE’s Teaching Fellows Program at fellows@nycboe.net. You have three years from the issue date to complete your master’s degree and fulfill any test or other requirements for the initial or professional certificate. When you do, your college will process an application for the initial or professional certificate, whichever pertains.

Internship Certificate. Students enrolled in an approved graduate teacher education program may qualify for this certificate, provided they have completed half of the program’s credit hours. The graduate school has to request this certificate for you and it allows you to teach full time in a position that matches the certificate title. You have two years to complete your course and test requirements. This certificate is not renewable.

Am I done yet?

Even after you have passed all your tests, fulfilled all your mandates and achieved all your degrees, you’re still not quite done.

Remember that no certificate is issued automatically. Once you complete your requirements, you have to apply to the SED for your permanent or professional certificate.

Since it takes time to process your application, it’s a good idea to complete all your requirements early and to apply at least six months before your provisional or initial certificate expires.

You can download the application from the SED Web site, www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert. It tells you all the documentation you need to submit together with the $100 application fee. Make copies of everything before you send it in. Mail your packet “Return Receipt Requested” and file the receipt with the copies of your paperwork.

Also, if you move, remember to notify the DOE, the SED and the UFT about your change of address. Otherwise you may not receive mailed notices or certificates and may miss important deadlines or other vital information. 1