Monday, August 07, 2006

Will Politicians Respond to a Special Ed Teacher?

Mr. Joel Klein
Chancellor
New York City Department of Education
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Mr. Richard P. Mills
Commissioner
State Education Department
Education Building
Albany, NY 12234

Mr. Michael Bloomberg
Mayor of New York City
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Messrs. Klein, Mills and Bloomberg:

I am a highly qualified special educator with a Master’s degree from U.C. Berkeley. I teach children with autism. I completed the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF) program in June ‘05. I would like to inform you of the types of bureaucratic roadblocks that many highly qualified New York City and State teachers experience when applying for their teaching licenses. I would also appreciate your help in getting to the bottom of why my permanent special education teaching license has not yet been issued.

I have called and emailed NYCTF and the NY State Office of Teaching Initiatives about this matter. I have not yet received a response. The details I describe below are rather complicated and lengthy, but I feel it is important that you follow them so you can better understand the extent of the hassles that many of your current and potential teachers are experiencing. We are not the ones creating these complications. We just want to teach.

I began applying for my permanent teaching license more than one year ago, in July 2005, when I completed the NYCTF program and met all qualifications for the permanent license. At that time, I discovered that my Transitional B license had never been issued, despite the fact that I properly submitted my application via NYCTF and Mercy College in Summer 2003. NYCTF and Mercy staff assured me in Fall 2003 that my Trans B license had been issued, but when I asked for a copy of the license, they told me that NYSED did not issue paper licenses. Even Vicki Bernstein (Director of Alternative Certification) told me during a telephone conversation that my Trans B license had been issued. She was wrong. It is now clear that she never even bothered to check.

So after two years of teaching special ed in the South Bronx through NYCTF and taking night and weekend education courses, I discovered that I didn’t even have a basic teaching license. Mercy College and NYCTF blamed the state for the problem, and the state blamed Mercy. Mercy acknowledged that they had a copy of my correctly completed Trans B application dated August 2003. Still, I had to submit an entirely new Trans B application. This mess with my Trans B application was finally cleared up in January 2006 (almost 2.5 years after it should have been issued). In the end, my Trans B license was issued 01/27/06, made effective 9/1/03, and it expires 8/31/06. (Yes, these dates are correct.)

Once my Trans B license was issued, I was finally able to apply for the permanent license (which, again, I’ve had the qualifications for since 7/05). I received confirmation through USPS return receipt that my permanent application was received by NYSED on 3/23/06. My information was entered into the Teach Online system on 4/29/06. I applied through individual transcript review (since Mercy dropped the ball on offering a special ed degree, but that is another long, frustrating issue). I received a letter from the Office of Teaching Initiatives dated 4/29/06, stating that my permanent application had been received and that the evaluation process could take up to 4-6 weeks because of the high volume of applications.

It's been over 14 weeks since that letter was written, over 19 weeks since my permanent application was actually received by the Office of Teaching Initiatives, and over one year since I began the process of applying for my permanent license only to find that my Trans B license had never been issued. I still don’t have my permanent license.

This is beyond outrageous. If I were you, frankly, I’d be mortified that this is happening in New York. I began my teaching career in Vietnam, and I never imagined that the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department would subject me to more red tape than the Hanoi Ministry of Education.

I am currently transitioning to a new teaching job, and I do not appreciate having to live with the anxiety of not knowing whether or not I will be able to keep my new job because of all this trouble with my license. I am quite sure that my students and their parents would not appreciate losing a highly qualified autism teacher due to a bureaucratic snafu. My Trans B license expires in just a few weeks. There are no deficiencies in my qualifications for a permanent license. There is no reason for the hold up.

New York is in desperate need of special educators, particularly highly qualified special educators who have extensive autism training. Why put someone in my position through so much trouble when I am eager to teach children with autism, and I am more than qualified? There is something seriously wrong with this system, and I am by no means the only teacher who is fed up with it. I hope each of your offices will take action to help me and the many other teachers in simililar situations. No qualified teacher should have to put up with such nonsense.

Sincerely,



Miss Dennis
Teacher/Journalist

9 Comments:

Anonymous Institutional Memory said...

If you get a reply from any of the addressees, it'll be a miracle.

I hope this all gets worked out in a satisfactory manner, because we can't afford to lose you!

9:54 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

I have a friend who misplaced his teaching license and has waited 10 months for a replacement from the State. I don't want to scare you but that it how it is.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Dennis said...

Water_moon posted the below comment over on Angela Gunn's USA Today Tech_Space blog.
http://blogs.usatoday.com/techspace/

Miss Dennis isn't the only one. All over the country teachers whose qualifications have been just fine are have trouble getting licences renewed, or other "qualifications" covered.

I attended a magnet high school in a state that hasn't been in the top 40 states in education since Montana achieved statehood. It was a school to promote higher learning and over half the teachers were PhDs. Now, because of state accredidation requirements due to the No Child Left Behind Act, about one quarter of the math and science teachers, some of whom I know taught college classes when I was a student, aren't "certified." They are wonderful teachers, but they haven't taken classes like "How to Use AV Equipment in the Classroom" so they aren't "qualified" to teach high school.

The school has its hands tied, the teachers just want to do what they do best. I know the government was trying to help students around the country with NCLB, but when great teachers are lost to bureaucracy the students are the ones to suffer.

3:09 AM  
Blogger Benjamin Whelan said...

I think politicians should have to be certified.
And I think teachers should decide what the qualifications are and reserve the right to revoke their licenses at any time and for any reason.
Sounds reasonably fair, doesn't it?

8:00 AM  
Blogger Polski3 said...

I am sorry that you have to go through this crap from the state. If I may suggest, also send copies of your letter to your state legislators and your federal senators and member of the House of Representitives. Personally, I'd like to know if Mrs. Hillary answers your letter and does any sort of investigation of your problem. Have you thought of moving back to California? We always need Spec. Ed. teachers out here too! Good luck.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Schoolgal said...

How has our Union helped you in this situation? Your dues should count for something. This process is taking as long as the scoring of reading and math assessments!

I also didn't realize you were switching schools. I wish you the best of luck with both situations.

I just happened to sign up for NYS Teach Online yesterday because I was interested to see what my status looked like since it now gets reported to parents.

On another matter, NYC Educator has posted on the rise of U-ratings and Letters in File. I think your experience with a letter in your file speaks volumes about this matter. If you get a chance, please post a comment.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my favorite part. LOL!

"I began my teaching career in Vietnam, and I never imagined that the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department would subject me to more red tape than the Hanoi Ministry of Education."

6:14 PM  
Blogger Ms. C said...

Thanks a lot...I just "graduated" from the 7 week boot camp through the Fellows program in Brooklyn, and you just gave me one more thing to worry about!

Though it doesn't surprise me at all that the Teaching Fellows program didn't help you much...while I appreciate the program itself I have found that it's very sloppy.

I hope this all ends well for you, Miss Dennis!

12:47 AM  
Blogger mcewen said...

How bizarre! I hate bureaucratic nightmares. Best of luck, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

9:01 PM  

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