From: Elissa G. Smith, Ph.D. and Jennifer Chernis, Policy Fellows with the New York Educator Voice Fellowship

Re: Certified Teachers Working as Teacher Assistants in New York

Problem

Certified teachers working as teacher assistants are unable to accrue necessary credit and professional development toward maintaining and advancing their New York State Education Department (NYSED) teacher certification.

Solution

Allow certified teachers working as teacher assistants to accrue 60% credit toward maintaining and/or renewing their teaching certification. Schools districts will be required to submit professional development  records for all employees holding initial, provisional and/or professional certification.

Under the guidelines on the NYSED “Certification Start to Finish” page, individuals who have received an initial certification are required to complete three years of teaching experience within 5 years in order to apply for a provisional certification. If they are unable to secure employment and obtain three years of teaching experience, they must renew their certification. In order to renew their teaching license they must complete 75 hours of professional development, and re-take the content area specialty test in their certification area.

In many areas of New York State school districts have reduced staff over the last 10 years, which has led to an overabundance of qualified professionals seeking employment in a saturated market.

Due to these budgetary cutbacks school districts have hired teacher assistants to support learning and instruction. The bureau of Labor and Statistics has reported that in 2014-2015 123,900 teaching assistants were employed in New York State Schools. New York State schools employ the second highest number of teacher assistants in the country, outnumbered only by California. However, New York State reporting data does not record the number of teaching assistants per district, their level of education and/or the certifications they hold.

The Regulations under the Commissioner of Education, Section 80 5-6 state that “Teaching Assistants, unlike teacher aides, are members of the teaching staff and must be given a probationary appointment as a teaching assistant and are eligible for tenure.” However, if one holds an initial certification and become a tenured teacher assistant after three years, they may be eligible for an extension, and then after the extension expires they will lose your teaching license, and as a result their position.

Teaching assistants are included in many teacher contracts across the state. However, there are currently no regulations that require school districts to provide teacher assistants with professional development. This results in school districts not uniformly providing opportunities for learning, or maintaining accurate professional development records, which are required for certified teaching assistants to obtain their professional certification.

John L. D’Agati put out a proposal to the Higher Education Committee on November 3, 2016 amending the extension process. However, he did not address the types of service that count as teaching experience to acquire the necessary 3 years.  Under the current regulations working as a substitute counts as service credit but being employed by a school district as a teaching assistant does not.

Proposal

An addendum to the proposed amendment of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Section 80- 1.6:

Holders of an initial certificate, who have obtained a teaching assistant position working in their area of certification shall be granted 60% for each year of service credit towards time necessary to apply for a professional certification and/or maintain initial certification.

Therefore, an individual who has been employed as a teacher assistant in their area of certification for the 5 year initial certification time period will have accrued enough teaching credit to apply for an initial certification and/or maintain initial certification.

School Districts will be required to maintain records of professional development hours for all individuals holding a certification, regardless of their area of employment.

School districts must not deny individuals with professional development provided by the district within the school day, based on their area of employment. All certified individuals must be provided with equal opportunities to receive professional development provided by the school during the school day.

 

For more information, contact the New York Educator Voice Fellowship or email maryconroy.almada@americaachieves.org.