New teacher q & a

What happens if I'm teaching "out of license"?

I have state certification in English 7-12. NYC has appointed me as a high school English teacher. Currently, I am teaching math in a middle school. Will this affect my teaching career? What can I do?

New Teachers Ask

A: It certainly could affect your career. Let’s start with your appointment. While there are no more New York City paper licenses, there are still license/appointment areas, each with a different code. When you began teaching, the DOE notified you by personal email of your license/appointment area and code. At that time, you should have made sure that you were appointed in the right subject area and division level.

You can only be appointed in an area that matches your state certificate. In your case, you could be appointed as a high school or junior high school English teacher. According to state and federal law, every teacher should be appointed to a position that matches his or her license area.

“Out of license” teaching assignments are not unusual. Since some teaching positions are harder to fill than others, newer teachers are often assigned to teach out of their license areas, even in a different division.

While such “out of license” assignments don’t affect your salary, they could affect your tenure and your right to keep your position if excessing occurs (for a complete explanation of excessing, go to

Tenure can only be granted in the license area under which you have been appointed, regardless of what you are teaching. Teachers who have taught “out of license” could find their probation period extended if the principal or superintendent thinks there is not enough experience in, or evidence of, effectiveness in the appointed license area.

Now let’s consider your right to keep your position in an excessing situation. If your school needs to reduce its staff, principals can decide to excess certain license areas. Keep in mind that excessing is based on the license under which you are appointed, not your teaching assignment. So, in your case, you would be vulnerable if your principal was excessing English teachers, even though you are teaching math, a shortage area that may not be excessed. The most vulnerable to excessing are those whose teaching assignment does not match their license division level, as in your case.

What can you do? First, check right away if you aren’t sure about the subject and division of your appointment. If you think there is an error, correct it quickly. For example, you could ask to be appointed as a junior high school English teacher, which could allow you to stay in your current school. Then, if your appointment does not match your teaching assignment, ask your chapter leader to help you discuss this with your principal to get your program corrected as soon as possible.

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