Guide: For Teachers

How can I find out what’s in my union contract?

The most recent contracts for classroom teachers negotiated by the United Federation of Teachers can be found here. Teachers with questions about the contract can contact their school’s union representative or the U.F.T.

Am I entitled to use all of my sick days without penalty?

The United Federation of Teachers, or U.F.T., says teachers are allowed to use all 10 of their sick days without penalty. These 10 days can be used as “self-treated” sick days and do not require a doctor’s note, although it is recommended to get one when possible. Three of those days can be used for personal business, as long as the teacher notifies his or her principal ahead of time.

Teachers who have more than 10 absences may use days accumulated in his or her Cumulative Absence Reserve, or CAR; those regularly appointed teachers who exhaust CAR may borrow an additional 20 paid sick days.

However, if the principal has reason to believe the teacher is excessively absent, he or she can investigate the cause. Teachers found to be misusing their sick days or having such poor attendance that it is interfering with their service can be disciplined.

The New York City Department of Education guidelines for attendance and lateness are laid out in Chancellor’s Regulation C-601, which can be reached from here.

What do I have to do to receive tenure?

To receive tenure, you must be an appointed teacher who has completed all certification and licensing requirements and satisfactorily completed a probationary period. Traditionally, the probationary period is three years; however, this may be reduced for teachers with earlier service experience.

The D.O.E. introduced a new framework for evaluating teachers during their probationary period in December 2010. The new evaluation rubric requires principals to assess teachers who are eligible for tenure in three different categories: impact on student learning, instructional practice and professional contributions. In each category, teachers are evaluated as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. To make their assessments, principals may draw evidence from teachers’ data reports (which are based on student test scores), classroom observations, parent feedback and portfolios, among other factors.

Principals are encouraged to recommend for tenure only teachers who have been deemed highly effective or effective. Teachers deemed ineffective may be terminated.

Principals also may extend the probationary period of developing teachers for another year. That occurred many more times than usual during the past two academic years. In the summer of 2012, 55 percent of eligible teachers received tenure compared to 89 percent in 2010. The United Federation of Teachers has expressed concern that the tenure extension option has been misused, in cases where teachers switch schools, and that teachers should get more support.

Although principals decide which teachers to recommend for tenure, it is ultimately up to the district superintendent.

The U.F.T. has additional information about tenure here and posts the dates for tenure workshops here.

What is the observation process? How many times per year am I supposed to be observed?

The state's new teacher evaluation law, which will go into effect in New York City in the 2013-14 school year, means teachers will no longer be rated simply satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Instead, they can be rated as ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective. Student progress on state exams will count for up 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, with another 20 percent to be determined by local tests. The remaining 60 percent will be determined by classroom observations.

The United Federation of Teachers has a guide explaining the process. It was agreed to in June, 2013 after a year of contentious negotiations between the city and the U.F.T.

Teachers will be able to choose two different options for how they are observed, and principals will have to give them feedback following each observation. The law mandates twice-yearly conferences for teachers to have conversations with their supervisors about their teaching.

One option includes one formal classroom observation, plus at least three informal classroom observations. The formal observation includes conferences before and afterwards in which the teacher and principal (or other evaluator) discuss the lesson focus, activities and expectations. At the post-observation conference, the two reflect upon the teacher's performance and discuss future steps. The informal observations are at least 15 minutes each, by a principal or other evaluator, and feedback must be provided afterwards to the teacher with a written report.

The second option is for a minimum of six informal classroom observations by the principal or other evaluator of at least 15 minutes in length. The evaluator must provide feedback and write a report within 90 days.

Principals or other administrators who conduct classroom observations must be trained to use all 22 components of Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching rubric.

A student survey, which will not count in evaluations in the 2013–2014 school year, was adopted (over the union’s objections), for students in grades 3 to 12. These scores will make up 5 points of the evaluation in subsequent years.

How can I advance salary steps? Salary differentials?

There are two ways teachers can receive an increase in salary. The first is by advancing salary steps, which happens automatically after each semester of satisfactory service. The second is by applying for a salary differential. Teachers are eligible to apply for a differential if they attain an educational level higher than that required for their position.

The full salary schedule for teachers is here.

How can I learn more about the Common Core?

The national Common Core State Standards Initiative was introduced in June 2009. The standards have since been adopted by New York and 43 other states. States that have adopted the standards have earned points in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition.

The aim of the Common Core is to unify the expectations of what students should be learning, whether they are attending school in New York or Hawaii.

According to the New York State Education Department’s time line, these standards should be fully implemented in all New York classrooms by the 2014-15 school year. New York State’s Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy and New York State’s Common Core Learning Standards for Math can be accessed from here. New York has added some of its own standards.

The New York City Department of Education Web site has additional information about the Common Core.

Can I be required to teach classes outside of my certification/license area?

According to the New York State Education Department Commissioner’s Regulations 80-5.3, a superintendent may allow a teacher to teach in a certification/license area outside of his or her own for no more than five classroom hours per week. This practice is known as “incidental teaching,” and, according to the state guidelines, it is acceptable only “when no certified or qualified teacher is available after extensive and documented recruitment.”

How do I change my certification?

Teachers who hold a valid New York State classroom teaching certificate are able to bypass some of the requirements for first-time certificate applicants. They can obtain an additional certificate through the New York State Education Department’s Individual Evaluation for Additional Classroom Teaching Certificate pathway. The state’s Web site has all of the content-specific requirements for the new area. Teachers must take the Content Specialty Test, or C.S.T., for the new area. Teachers can apply for the additional certificate at Teach Online Services.

New York City requires a new teaching license for those who obtain a new certificate. The city automatically generates a license for a teacher once he or she has the state certificate and is appointed.

If a teacher is appointed to and obtains a license in the new area before receiving tenure under the previous license area, the clock for the three-year probationary period starts over again. Teachers who have received tenure in their previous license area can keep their tenure in that area or apply for “traveling tenure” to receive tenure in the new license area. That reduces the probationary period to two years from the typical three years.

The United Federation of Teachers warns that switching a certificate/license area can affect seniority when it comes to excessing, because teachers with less seniority in their license area are let go first when positions are cut for budget reasons. Should a teacher choose to return to his or her previous license, the teacher will need to apply for approval to do so. According to Article 5, Section G of the U.F.T. contract, it will be difficult to get approval to change from a shortage area like special education or bilingual education to a nonshortage area.

How can I obtain grant money for my classroom?

There is a listing of grants on a teacher page of the New York City Department of Education Web site. The list is broken down into categories like subject-specific grants and school-based grants. There are additional awards and grants listed on the New York State Education Department Web site and the United States Department of Education Web site.

Sites like Teacher Planet,, TeachersCount and Grant Gopher have searchable databases of grants available for educators, and businesses like Target, CVS and Staples sponsor community outreach programs.

Some teachers seek assistance for their classroom needs from the community. These sites allow teachers to reach out to potential donors by posting resources and projects that need support:, Supply Our Schools, Adopt-a-Classroom and ClassWish.

These answers were researched, reported and written by Jessica Campbell. To correct, improve or enhance an answer, e-mail