There is a lot of confusion about just how teachers obtain job protection rights. In order to understand the strange world of teacher qualification it is first necessary to understand a few terms.
Certification: Issued by the State Education Department after a teacher candidate shows minimum qualifications to teach. These include written tests (ATS-W) performance tests (ATS-P) and adequate college credits. Certification varies depending upon academic area and grade level. Some certifications are for wide ranges of grades (K-12) or for smaller ranges of grades (7-12). Certification has no direct relationship with probation or tenure except that failure to obtain the requisite certification will result in the loss of tenure or license.
License: A uniquely New York City requirement that often times does not mesh neatly with certification. Licensing may be for different subjects and often times are for different grades that certification. Licensing used to have qualifying criteria (oral exam) but now the only requirement is the payment of a fee.
Probation: That period prior to tenure (usually 3 years) where the Board can dismiss you without a due process hearing. Teachers on probation have limited rights, however, that protects them against dismissal for arbitrary or discriminatory reasons. Additionally terminated probations are entitled to Board of Education hearings although the "hearing" is done by a representative of the Board and teachers rarely win. Note: probation terminations must be challenged in Court within 4 months of the notice. This is usually well before the termination of probation hearing is held. If you wait until after the termination of probation hearing you will probably be only able to challenge the results of the hearing in Court. The Court will be unable to reinstate you to your teaching position.
Tenure: Obtained after 3 years (or less with Jarema credit) of appointment, under a license. Tenure entitles a teacher to be given a due process hearing before any serious disciplinary action can be taken. Under our contract we are entitled to the hearing before a single arbitrator selected by the DOE and the UFT to hear these cases. Cases can only be appealed under very narrow circumstances.
Appointment: Certified teachers, when granted a license, and assigned to a particular job (actually from a list in which a random list number is generated…yes this number may be important in excessing or layoff to determine seniority if two teachers were hired the same day). Appointment starts the tenure clock running unless Jarema credit (credit for non-appointed teacher time) is given. After three years of appointment the teacher becomes eligible for tenure. Any change in license, including junior high to senior high licensing) will start the clock over.
Jarema Credit. This is a way that appointed teachers who worked satisfactorily as regular substitutes in the same license and at the same school level can reduce the normal three-year probationary period by up to two years. To obtain one term of credit, you must have worked as a sub for a minimum of 80 days within a period of 90 consecutive school days in the same school. For a credit of one year, you must have worked at least 160 days in a one-year period.
Traveling Tenure: Each time you change your license and are reappointed, you must serve a new three-year probationary period. But 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 apply to have your probationary period reduced to two years.
Some important points: Excessing ( or losing your appointment due to school closing, downsizing, or other factor will not cause resetting of tenure for probationers or tenured teachers unless the teacher is appointed in a different license. Similarly voluntary changes of appointments to different licenses will result in a new period of probation.