May 2015 Issue - New York State Certification
April 27, 2015

Budget extends probationary period for teachers by one year

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United
Tenure is a fundamental right that allows teachers to speak out on behalf of their students and ensures quality education, academic freedom and classroom stability.

As NYSUT continues its fight in the courts for tenure rights, the state budget increases the probationary period for teachers and principals - and specifically ties the granting of tenure to the state's new evaluation law.

Union leaders said the new law will make it more difficult for new teachers to achieve tenure and will potentially discourage would-be teachers from entering the profession. It will also take away some local control to make tenure decisions or determine whether to bring professional competence charges against a tenured employee.

Here are some key provisions:

  • For those hired after July 1, 2015, the law mandates a four-year probationary period, up from the current three years. The new teacher would need to attain an "effective" or "highly effective" evaluation rating for at least three of the four years.
  • If a teacher is rated ineffective in the fourth year, he or she cannot achieve tenure. A board can agree to a fifth probationary year.
  • A tenured teacher who moves to another district will have a three-year probationary period, so long as the teacher did not receive an ineffective in his or her last year at the prior school.

The governor had originally proposed extending the probationary period to five years, but the Legislature scaled that back to four years. He also wanted to require five consecutive years of effective ratings in order to earn tenure.

The new tenure law mandates that school boards bring charges to fire an educator for three consecutive ineffective ratings, with fraud or mistaken identity the only defense available. There is no discretion for a board not to bring charges. A district can choose to start a hearing process to fire teachers who receive an "ineffective" rating two years in a row.

The recent attacks on tenure - including a lawsuit filed in New York by a right-wing front group headed by former television celebrity Campbell Brown - are being vigorously challenged by NYSUT. Tenure is a fundamental right that allows teachers to speak out on behalf of their students and ensures quality education, academic freedom and classroom stability.