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Preparing for your tenure decision

New York Teacher
Two teachers sitting in auditorium
Jonathan Fickies

PS 65 teachers Massiel Mendez (left) and Lucy Merlino attended a workshop on the tenure process for District 7 teachers at MS 223 in the Bronx on Dec. 3.

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 if the Department of Education takes disciplinary action that could lead to termination.

Teachers 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 tenure, you must:

  • be on track to complete all your state certification and city licensing requirements and receive certification;
  • have a record of acceptable service during your probationary period; and
  • be recommended for tenure by your principal.

Your tenure becomes permanent only after you complete all your certification requirements.

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. Add a brief explanation or context for each piece of evidence you include and be sure to show how you differentiate instruction to accommodate children with diverse abilities.

If applicable, you can document the work you’ve done for your school community, such as clubs or student groups you advise or activities in which you’ve participated.

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 recordkeeping, using online resources to organize files. Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud are all services you can use to store your work.

You should meet with your principal to review your evidence before it is due.

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.

There are two ways to reduce your probationary period. If you worked as a regular substitute in the same license and at the same school level, you can reduce the normal probationary period by up to two years. This is called Jarema Credit. It should be applied automatically, but you’ll want to check to make sure you received it.

Another way to reduce your probationary period is called “traveling tenure.” If you received tenure in one license area and elect to take an appointment in a new license area or if you were tenured in another school district in New York State, you can reduce your probationary period by one year. It should be applied automatically, but you’ll want to check.

The UFT regularly offers tenure workshops in each district in collaboration with superintendents, who approve tenure recommendations. Check the UFT calendar for upcoming workshops. If you have any questions, contact the UFT at 212-331-6311.