Professional Experience and Personal Reflections
by Lisa Bowstead, Founder

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Are you Sure
Your Child's Teacher is Certified?
September 19, 2013

At the start of every school year, I encourage families to check the certification of all of their children's teachers. This year, I have already found a few teachers (at reputable schools!) who are not certified by NY State to teach in the classroom to which they have been assigned. 

While it is very possible that these teachers are knowledgeable in the material and will be inspirational to their students, the fact is that these teachers are not certified by NY State to do the job. Would you let your child ride a bus if you knew that the driver didn't have a valid driver's licence?

I remind parents not to blame the teacher for their assignment. It is the Principal who manages the budgets, hires, fires and assigns teachers to classes.  Teachers usually accept these assignments reluctantly, but feel powerless to protest. Further, I have found that Principals often make these assignments at the request of their District Superintendent, and that Principals also feel powerless to protest. 

The problem of teachers being assigned out of their certification is in a big part a result of school administrators trying to manage their schools with ridiculously insufficient funding. The solution is obvious: school budgets need to be INCREASED. 

. . . 

Here's what you need to do: 
  1. Check each teacher's certification status in the NY State Database of Teacher Certification:

  2. For every teacher who does not seem to have appropriate certification, submit a "Request Teacher Certification Information" form to the Principal (keep a copy):

    FYI, this is what the top of the form says: 

    Dear Principal:
    The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 gives me the opportunity to make sure that my child receives a high quality education. Under this law, I am requesting information about the certification status and professional qualifications of my child’s classroom teacher and/or paraprofessional staff working with my child.

  3. If the school indicates that the teacher's certification is not in the subject to which he/she has been assigned, request from the Principal a written explanation as to how it is that your child's teacher is not certified for his/her assigned duties. 

    At this point, schools frequently swap-in a certified teacher, explaining that the situation was never intended to be long-term.

  4. If the situation persists, I recommend escalating to 
    • your school's Parent-Teacher Association
    • your community UFT (Teachers' Union) Liaison
    • your District Superintendent 
    • your local City Council Representative
Remember:  the real issue is FUNDING.

. . . 

The problem of teachers being assigned out of their certification is so widespread that the NYC DOE website actually tracks the data in the school Progress Reports -- and the numbers are VERY significant. I am very sorry that school budgets have been cut to the bare bone, forcing Principals to make difficult decisions.  It is very important that we as parents and citizens collectively remember that just because everyone is doing it doesn't make it right. Or legal.

In fact, it is absolutely NOT legal! 

I have collected all of the relevant federal and state laws and information regarding teacher certification. Parents need to know these laws and then insist that they be enforced:

I love tutoring, but it infuriates me when I have to undo the damage done by inappropriately assigned teachers. Sure, some of these teachers are really great, but my experience is that when teachers work out of certification, parents have to spend thousands of dollars on tutoring.