New teacher articles

Taking steps to prepare for your tenure decision

Gaining tenure is an important milestone for new teachers. Having tenure means you can’t be terminated without due process and you’re entitled to a hearing before an independent arbitrator if charges are brought against you.

This article is for teachers hired before July 1, 2015, who generally serve a three-year probationary period. (New teachers hired after July 1, 2015, are generally eligible for tenure at the end of their fourth year.)

There are many steps you can take to prepare for your tenure decision. First and foremost, you need to know your tenure date. To find it, check with your payroll secretary. You’ll want to be proactive in meeting with your principal in advance of your tenure decision to review your work.

In New York City, tenure is granted in your license appointment area, which is why it is of utmost importance that your license code match the subject and level in which you are teaching.

Tenure isn’t automatically granted at the end of your probationary period. To be granted permanent tenure, you must:

  • complete all your state certification and city licensing requirements, file an application and receive professional certification;
  • have a record of acceptable service during your probationary period; and
  • be recommended for tenure by your principal.

To recommend you for tenure, your principal will use the DOE’s teacher tenure decision-making framework, which evaluates your performance based on three broad categories:

  • Instructional practice, which can be measured by formal and informal observation reports and other evidence of your planning and preparation, classroom environment and instruction;
  • Professionalism, as evidenced by your ability to reflect on teaching, communication with families, participation in the school’s professional community and your professional conduct; and
  • Student learning, as demonstrated in a variety of ways that a majority of your students, including English language learners and students with disabilities, are achieving substantial gains on the New York State standards.

In preparing for tenure, you’ll want to keep records and documents that reflect on your performance, such as observation reports; notes or emails to and from your colleagues, mentor, supervisors and parents; and evidence of your professional contributions to your school.

“Be sure to document your work for the school community — clubs, student groups you advise, fundraising activities, etc.,” advises Bill Wrigley, an art teacher at the Academy for Environmental Leadership in Brooklyn.

There are many ways you can organize this information. Some teachers choose to build tenure portfolios using binders organized into subsections where they store lesson plans, student work and assessments, observation reports, certificates from professional learning activities and other records.

Other teachers recommend digital record-keeping, using online resources to organize files. “Digitize your entire teaching practice,” recommends Clifton Floyd, a science teacher at Science Skills HS in Brooklyn. “Put everything in Dropbox or Google Drive in extremely organized folders. Do this for the rest of your career.”

If you are up for tenure and your principal asks you to agree to extend your probationary period, you should contact your chapter leader or a UFT representative to help ensure that your rights are protected.

The UFT offers tenure workshops in its borough offices. Check the UFT website’s events calendar for details.

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