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Reference

ATS-W

Assessment of Teaching Skills - Written

 

BOCES

Boards of Cooperative Educational Services

 

CST

Content Specialty Test

 

LAST

Liberal Arts and Sciences Test

 

NYSED

New York State Education Department

 

NYSTCE

New York State Teacher Certification Examinations

 

OTI

Office of Teaching Initiatives

New York Teacher (K-12) Professional Licensing Guide

1. How the Profession Is Organized in New York
2. Eligibility for Licensing
3. Tests
4. Time and Costs
5. Other Careers and Credentials
6. Beyond Licensing
7. Important Links
8. Tips

1. How the Profession Is Organized in New York

The New York education system

New York has both public and private schools, but the majority of children attend public school starting by age 5. Schools are usually grouped by grade into elementary schools (Kindergarten through 5th grade), middle schools (6th to 8th grade), and high schools (9th to 12th grade).

There is no single, standard education model in the US. Although some national laws affect education at the state level, in New York, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) governs education. NYSED sets learning expectations for each grade level and subject area (the NYS Learning Standards) and provides core curriculum guidelines. At the local-level, public education is administered by a school district - a grouping of several public schools in a community. School districts have flexibility in determining how the NYS Learning Standards are met. They are responsible for developing curricula, choosing textbooks and instructional materials, and deciding the order and depth in which each topic is taught. Each district usually has administrative offices that serve all of its schools, including a Human Resources department to help hire teachers and other school staff. As a jobseeker, it is important that you build relationships at this local level - with both the district Human Resource Department and the individual schools where you are interested in teaching.

Additionally, New York has Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES). BOCES are public organizations that provide shared educational programs and services to school districts. A school district is not required to be part of a BOCES, but most New York school districts choose to be because pooling resources with multiple school districts is a more cost-effective way of providing many services. During the application process, you may complete some of the required steps at a BOCES.

The New York Office of Teaching Initiatives (OTI) licenses teachers to work anywhere in the state. This license is officially called a "certificate" but you may also hear it called a "teaching license" or "teaching credential." Your New York teaching certificate will not automatically qualify you for a license in another state, but it may help advance your application. If you plan to move in the future, you will need to research licensing requirements in other states.

Types of New York Teaching Certificates

In New York, there are two types of certificates teachers can obtain. Generally, teachers first receive an Initial Certificate, which is an entry-level teaching certificate issued in specific subject/grade titles valid for five years. During those five years, the teacher must complete the requirements to receive a Professional Certificate. A teacher must hold a Professional Certificate in order to have a long-term teaching career in New York (in extreme cases, a teacher can apply to extend the Initial Certificate, but such extensions are rare). Completing the required amount of professional development hours every five years will keep the Professional Certificate valid.

Note that when you are applying for a teaching certificate, you must indicate the grade level and subject area you want to teach. This is called the certificate title. For example, you may choose Mathematics (Grade 7-12) or Generalist in Middle Child Education (Grades 5-9). Once you receive an Initial Certificate in a specific title, your Professional Certificate must be in the same title.

Depending on your educational and professional background, you may be able to apply directly for a Professional Certificate. However, if you do not have the requisite experience, you will need to apply for an Initial Certificate and then complete the requirements to receive your Professional Certificate.

Typical requirements for an Initial Certificate include:

  • A minimum of a Bachelors Degree with unit requirements depending on the certificate title
  • Pedagogical Core coursework
  • Student teaching experience
  • Passing scores on LAST, ATS-W, and the appropriate CST (see Tests section below)
  • Completion of Child Abuse Identification and Reporting workshop and School Violence Intervention and Prevention workshop
  • Fingerprint Clearance

To receive a Professional Certificate, you must have all of the above plus:

  • 3 years of paid, full-time classroom teaching experience
  • Master's degree

The OTI website has an interactive tool to help you determine the requirements for the specific certificate title you are seeking. A link to this is included in the Important Links section below.

New York also offers other teaching certificates, such as transitional certificates targeted at career-changers and various levels of Teaching Assistant Certificates. Teachers interested in Pupil Personnel Services (such as guidance counselors or social workers) follow a separate certification path: they must first apply for a Provisional Certificate and then for a Permanent Certificate.

This article will discuss only the Initial Certificate and Professional Certificate as they relate to foreign-educated teachers. The section Other Credentials and Careers briefly describes some other options for working in the field of K-12 education, including substitute teaching.

Market for teachers in New York

The job market for teachers in the state of New York is competitive and has grown even more challenging with the recession. Recent state and local budget cuts have resulted in many certified teachers losing their jobs. There may be a higher demand for science and math teachers, those working in special education (working with children with disabilities), and for bilingual teachers.

If you are seeking classroom teaching opportunities, you can research opportunities in both public and private schools. Private schools and special public schools called charter schools do not necessarily require you to have a New York teaching certificate. However, these schools may have lower pay and benefits (insurance, retirement) than traditional public schools.

You should also consider volunteering in schools as a transitional step in your job search. Volunteering will not only help you become familiar with individual schools and the US education system in general, it will also help you demonstrate skills and develop a professional network that may lead to employment. You must research volunteer opportunities on your own. Usually the best way to do this is to contact the Human Resources Department at your local school district or the Head Secretary of a local school and inquire about volunteer opportunities.

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2. Eligibility for Licensing

Overview

As a foreign-educated teacher, you can apply for certification through an individual evaluation of your non-U.S. credentials. The teaching certification application must be completed online at OTI's website through TEACH Online Services. Before you get started with the below steps, it's a good idea to first register with TEACH. You will need a Social Security Number or a Canadian Social Insurance Number to register. A link for Self Registration is in the Important Links section.

There are five steps foreign-educated teachers must take, but these steps can be taken concurrently:

NY_Teacher.png

i. Submit Your Online Application for Certification and Mail Your Credentials

We recommend that you submit your online application first. You do not need to complete all of the requirements for certification (Steps 2-5) before submitting your online application. In fact, as long as you hold the minimum degree requirement, you can submit the application at any time.

OTI will evaluate your application and send you a Notice of Uncompleted Requirements, which states the requirements you do not meet. This is particularly useful because it states how many additional units of coursework, if any, you must complete. Many applicants prefer to know this before investing time and resources to meet the other requirements because completing the education requirements can be a significant commitment. Please note that although this is our recommendation, these steps can be completed in any order or concurrently.

The online application will require you to supply the following information:

  • Education information
  • Employment information
  • Certificate Type and Title for which you are applying. (Once selected, you will be asked a series of questions to determine the appropriate pathway. You will most likely be following the Individual Evaluation pathway.)
  • Fee: As of June 2012, the cost for individual evaluation for each certificate title is $100. This does not include other fees, such as for your fingerprinting application or exam registration.

Additionally, you will be required to submit your non-U.S. credentials by mail so that OTI can evaluate them. You must submit:

  • Original credentials or U.S. notarized copies of original credentials (Canadian applicants must send original or official transcripts)
  • U.S. notarized English translations of all credentials.

Credentials include documents such as transcripts and teaching certificates for other jurisdictions. Transcripts are required for each year of study and must include the total number of instructional hours completed, grades received, and degree received with date of conferral. These credentials have various names depending on the country in which they were completed. See the requirements link in the Important Links section below for possible names by country. For the fastest processing, submit all of your original documents at once by U.S. Certified Mail. Your original documents will be returned to you.

Note that only the State Education Department can evaluate non-U.S. credentials. You do not have the option of having your application reviewed by a BOCES Regional Certification Office.

ii. Meet the Education Requirements

Many foreign applicants will find they are lacking in at least some of the education requirements necessary for certification. If you are lacking just a few courses, you can take those specific courses. If you do not already have a Masters degree or lack a significant number of courses, you may consider enrolling in an approved Teacher Preparation program.

Make sure that you complete any college coursework at a degree-granting institution of higher education approved by the New York State Commissioner of Education or a regional accrediting agency. The coursework must be offered for degree credit by the college, whether or not you obtain the degree. Pedagogical coursework must be earned at an institution of higher education with an approved teacher education program that leads to teacher certification in the state in which the college is located, or a community college with an articulation agreement with such an institution. If you choose not to enroll in an approved teacher preparation pathway, you can work with a regional certification specialist. They will help make sure that you meet the necessary requirements and can advise you about waiving teaching requirements based on past experience.

When you are enrolling in a course, check with the college to make sure it will count towards your certificate. You can also consider distance learning to meet your educational requirements. Links about these options are included in the Important Links section below.

If you decide to enroll in a teacher preparation program, when you resubmit your certification application, you will most likely be applying through the institutional recommendation pathway.

iii. Pass New York State Teaching Certification Exams

A fundamental part of obtaining certification is passing the requisite exams. When factoring in registration deadlines, study time, and the availability of certain exams, this could take several months.

To be eligible for Initial and Professional Certification, you must have a passing score on the following exams:

  • Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST)
  • Assessment of Teaching Skills - Written (ATSW)
  • Content Specialty Test (CST) appropriate for your certificate area

A Social Security Number is used to correctly match an individual to his test score. While you do not need a SSN to register for the exams, you will need one to be issued a teaching certificate. Once you take the exam, your score will be reported directly to the NYSED and matched to your certification application by your SSN.

These tests will be discussed in detail in the Tests section.

iv. Complete Required Workshops

All applicants are required to complete two clock hours of coursework and training in the following two areas:

  • Child Abuse Identification and Reporting
  • School Violence Intervention and Prevention

Child Abuse Identification and Reporting training must completed through an NYSED-approved provider. General information and a list of approved providers are provided in the Important Links section below or by calling (518) 474-3544.

School Violence Intervention and Prevention training can be completed in several ways: through an approved provider, through a Registered Teacher Education program, or through Student Support Services Network Centers. General information and a list of approved providers are provided in the Important Links section below.

Upon completion of these workshops, providers will give you a certificate of completion. Copies of these must be included in your application. Certain providers may electronically transfer your completion information directly to the NYSED.

Depending on the certificate title you are applying for, you may need to take additional workshops. For example, applicants seeking to work with students with disabilities are also required to complete training on the needs of autistic children. Workshop requirements are included in the Notice of Uncompleted Requirements; they can also be verified on the Search Certification Requirements page of the OTI website.

v. Fingerprints for Criminal Background Check and Final Application Submission

All applicants must be fingerprinted so that a fingerprint-supported criminal background check can be conducted. This application can be completed online or via a paper application. The online application is recommended, as it will be processed more quickly. It can be accessed and submitted through your TEACH account. While this clearance is required for your certification application, it is separate from your certification application and can be submitted separately. The fingerprint clearance application fee is $94.25.

After submitting your fingerprint application, you will need to have your fingerprints taken. There will be an additional fee for this. You can either go to a participating Livescan station to have them digitally taken, or you can have them taken in ink and mail your completed fingerprint cards to OSPRA. Fingerprint cards are available at most schools or by emailing OSPRA.

The Important Links section includes links describing the fingerprint submission process.

If you submitted your licensing application as your first step (recommended in order to assess any deficiencies early) you will now have to resubmit your application for final review.

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3. Tests

The tests that you must pass depend on the title of the certificate for which you are applying. To receive your Initial Certificate, the three most common tests you must pass are the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST), Assessment of Teaching Skills - Written (ATS-W), and the Content Specialty Test (CST) appropriate for your certificate are. All New York State Teach Certification Examinations (NYSTCE) are administered by the Evaluation Systems group of Pearson Education.

You can register for these tests either through the internet, U.S. mail, or phone. There are three registration periods: regular, late, and emergency. Internet registration is available for all periods; U.S. mail registration is available for the regular and late periods; and phone registration is available for the emergency period. The deadline for regular registration is at least one month before the test date.

There is a link to registration information and preparation guides for all of these exams in the Important Links section below. There are also numerous commercial study guides prepared by private test preparation companies that are available online and in bookstores. Practice tests, test preparation classes, and study groups can be great tools to help you pass your tests.

If you fail any of the exams, you can retake it as often as necessary until you pass. Each time, you are required to reregister. Passing is based on your performance on the total test. You cannot combine performance on different sections from multiple testing sessions

Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (LAST) administration and registration

The LAST is offered seven times a year, every one to two months between September and July. See the NYSTCE registration bulletin for a link to upcoming test dates.

  • Paper examination - questions given in a test booklet; answers marked on an answer sheet (for multiple choice) and in a written response booklet
  • Offered only in the afternoon (test session is four hours; reporting time of 1:00pm and ending time of approximately 5:45pm)
  • Both multiple choice and written sections included in one session
  • Cost: $79 per session for paper-based testing and $149 per session for computer-based testing as of July 2012, additional costs for late or emergency registration

LAST content

The test includes two sections:

1. Multiple-choice section (80 multiple-choice questions)

This section is 80% of the test. It consists of 80 multiple choice questions to test knowledge and skills in four sub areas:

  • Scientific, Mathematical, and Technological Processes (about 23 questions)
  • Historical and Social Scientific Awareness (about 19 questions)
  • Artistic Expression and the Humanities (about 19 questions)
  • Communication and Research Skills (about 19 questions)

These questions can be anything from interpreting a graph or an image to reading and analyzing a long passage.

2. Constructed-response (written) section (1 essay)

This section is designed to test knowledge and skills in Written Analysis and Expression. You will be presented with two sides of an issue and asked to defend one side in a 300-600 word written response. This section is 20% of the test.

Assessment of Teaching Skills - Written (ATS-W) administration and registration

There are two versions of the ATS-W:

  • The Elementary ATS-W measures knowledge at the Early Childhood (birth-grade 2) and Childhood (grades 1-6) levels.
  • The Secondary ATS-W measures knowledge at the Middle Childhood (grades 5-9) and Adolescence (grades 7-12) levels)

The test you must take depends on the certificate title for which you are applying.

The ATS-W is offered seven times a year, every one to two months between September and July. See the NYSTCE registration bulletin for a link to upcoming test dates.

  • Paper examination - questions given in a test booklet; answers marked on an answer sheet (for multiple choice) and written response booklet
  • Offered only in the morning (test session is four hours; reporting time of 7:45am and ending time of approximately 12:30pm)
  • Both multiple choice and written sections included in one session
  • Cost: $79 per session for paper-based testing and $139 per session for computer-based testing as of July 2012, additional costs for late or emergency registration

ATS-W content

The test includes two sections:

1. Multiple-choice section (80 multiple-choice questions)

This section is 80% of the test. It consists of 80 multiple choice questions to test knowledge and skills in three sub areas:

  • Student Development and Learning (about 25 questions)
  • Instruction and Assessment (about 38 questions)
  • The Professional Environment (about 17 questions)

2. Constructed-response (written) section (1 essay)

This section is designed to test knowledge and skills in Instruction and Assessment. This section is 20% of the test.

Content Specialty Test (CST) administration and registration

The CST(s) you must take depends on the certificate title for which you are applying. Testing dates, times, and frequency vary. See the NYSTCE registration bulletin for a link to upcoming test dates.

  • Most CSTs are a paper examination with questions given in a test booklet; answers are marked on an answer sheet (for multiple choice) and in a written response booklet. CSTs for language other than English include recorded listening and/or speaking components and writing components. The American Sign Language CST includes video-recorded signing components. See the preparation guide for your CST for details.
  • Offered in the morning, afternoon or both, depending on which CST (test sessions are four hours; morning session has a reporting time of 7:45am and ending time of approximately 12:30pm; afternoon session has a reporting time of 1:00pm and ending time of approximately 5:45pm)
  • Cost: $79 per session for paper-based testing and $139 per session for computer-based testing as of July 2012, additional costs for late or emergency registration

CST content

The content of the CST varies greatly depending on the subject area. See the preparation guide for your CST(s) for details.

4. Time and Costs

The time and cost of evaluating your foreign degree and being eligible for teacher certification depends on many factors, including:

  • Your educational background
  • The speed of your foreign educational institution's process and foreign mail system
  • The cost and speed of services in the state of New York

We provide two hypothetical scenarios to show some of the variety of results that immigrant professionals may find when they seek to become teachers in New York. Please consider these scenarios as two examples out of many possibilities. Your experience will vary.

StepMore Efficient Scenario
Approximate Time and Cost
Less Efficient Scenario
Approximate Time and Cost
1. Submit Your Online Application for Certification and Mail Your Credentials
  • Your application is processed fairly quickly
  • Your foreign education and work experience meet the requirements
  • 6 months + $115
  • Your application is processed slowly
  • Your Bachelors degree is found insufficient and you do not have a Masters degree
  • 1 year + $115
2. Meet education requirements
  • Your foreign education meets the requirements, so you do not need to take any courses
  • You do not have a Masters and enroll in a teacher preparation program
  • 2 years + $30,000
3. Pass the LAST, the ATS-W, and the CST for your certificate title
  • You register by the regular registration deadline.
  • You can take two tests on one test date (morning and afternoon session) and the third test during the next date, one month later.
  • You pass all three exams on your first try
  • 4 months (from registration to score report) + $237
  • You register for all 3 tests during the emergency registration period
  • You take each test on a separate test date
  • You fail your CST and because it is not given at every test date and conflicts with another exam, you wait 7 months to retake it. Also, you need to reregister for the CST.
  • 8 months (from registration to score report) + $526
4. Complete the required workshops
  • You complete the course through an online provider.
  • You take the test online and your results are electronically transmitted to the NYSED.
  • 1 day + $60
  • You register to complete the workshops through the local BOCES
  • Trainings are provided approximately once a month
  • If you pass the exam, you will receive the certificate of completion at the end of the workshop
  • 1 month (from registration to course completion) + $80
5. Fingerprints
  • You submit your application online and are able to get a quick appointment to have your fingerprints rolled.
  • You use Livescan, so your fingerprints are processed within 3 days
  • 1 week + $110
  • You request a paper fingerprint application
  • It takes two weeks to make an appointment to have your fingerprints rolled
  • OSPRA rejects your fingerprints because they are smudged and you have to resubmit your application
  • 10 weeks + $110
6. Resubmit your application
  • Your application is processed fairly quickly
  • You have successfully completed all of the requirements
  • 6 months + $100
  • Your application is processed slowly
  • 1 year + $100
More Efficient Total
About 1 1/2 years + $650
Less Efficient Total
About 5 years + $31,000

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5. Other Credentials and Careers

The field of education employs people in a wide variety of positions. Some of these do not require teacher certification and may be worth considering as a first job as you return to your field in the US. Other positions may require other skills and credentials, including advanced degrees.

Teaching Assistants: Paraprofessional Training

Paraprofessionals, or Teaching Assistants, help a classroom teacher with administrative work in the classroom. They also may provide teaching and other support for small groups or individual students with specific needs. Usually, paraprofessionals do not plan lessons or manage the classroom alone. The certification process and educational requirements for teaching assistants is less intensive than for teachers, and this could be an interesting transitional job for professionals who want to work in a US classroom while they finish the teacher certification process. It is also an excellent way to network, to learn about a particular school and district, and to demonstrate your teaching abilities. Once you are working within a district, your chances of getting a permanent teaching position within that district increase greatly.

Substitute Teaching

Some substitute teachers are certified teachers who work full time as substitutes, but you do not need a teaching certification to become a substitute teacher. Those who are certified teachers or working towards certification (e.g., completing collegiate study of at least six semester hours per year) can work in any school district for any length of time. However, if employed for more than 40 days by a school district in one year, the teacher must hold or be working toward the proper certification for that position. Those who do not hold certification can be employed by any number of school districts but are limited to 40 days per school district per year. Local school districts may impose additional requirements.

Substitute teaching opportunities are also available at some private schools. In particular, larger private schools may offer regular substitute positions. Opportunities vary by school and area, so it is best to contact the Head Secretary at each school you are interested in and inquire about substitute positions.

Working as a substitute teacher can help you experience the differences within the US school system. Again, networking is important: if you find a district you enjoy, getting to know teachers and administrators can lead to steady work as a substitute and permanent job offers once you have your Initial or Professional Teacher Certification.

School Administrator

Public schools have professional jobs in school administration that you may qualify for. They usually require advanced degrees, experience as a classroom teacher, and some management experience.

Earn a US Education Degree

If your foreign degree is equivalent to a Masters in teaching, you should be able to transition to teaching in New York without going back to school for a degree program in the US. However, some people choose to apply for a Masters or Doctoral program in education in the US for career advancement opportunities or to access special government funding to fill high-demand teaching positions. You will need to research these opportunities independently.

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6. Beyond Certification

Here are a few more things to think about if you are considering teaching certification:

Joining a professional association

Professional Associations are a resource for working teachers and provide opportunities for professional development and networking with others in your field. They also help set acceptable working conditions for teachers and give information and opinions on education policy in New York and across the US. They do not help individuals with the certification process or with getting a job. Once you are certified you may want to join a professional association.

  • State: New York State United Teachers
  • National: National Education Association

There are many other professional associations that bring together teachers based on different characteristics like subject or grades taught, ethnicity, gender, and religion.

Licensing mobility (reciprocity)

Reciprocity occurs when some states agree to accept the certifications of other states. If you are licensed to work in another state, you may be eligible for a certificate through interstate reciprocity. See the Important Links section.

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7. Important Links

Common Words used in this article

Regulation:

  • The New York Office of Teaching Initiatives regulates public school teachers and other education professionals for the state of New York. The Office's information number is (518) 474-3901; you can listen to options on its voice system, or speak to an operator if you have specific questions.

The teacher credentialing application process:

Testing:

Further Education:

Other:

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8. Tips

Request documents early

If you don't have proof of your foreign education degree, request these documents from your university or government as soon as possible. This process can take a long time!

Use a certified translator

Invest in a professional and accurate translation of your documents. One good reference is to find a translator certified by The American Translators Association

Network

Use networking to get a job! Build relationships with both the district Human Resource Department and the individual schools where you wish to teach. If you are a parent, start your networking at your child's school by volunteering in a classroom, the school office, or after school programs

Explore alternatives

Try substitute teaching or working as a paraprofessional in the district where you would like to work. This will help you develop relationships with the administration and can lead to a more permanent job offer

Consider private schools

Talk to private schools in your area to learn if you can teach in one before you get a New York teaching certificate

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