By Camy Kobylinski
As we face a global pandemic and increasing teacher shortages, it is critical to be aware of teacher certification regulations and processes. Failure to follow the complex rules could have a serious impact on your license and employment status. If questions arise about any aspect of the licensing process, do not hesitate to your local association leaders for help. They can connect you with NJEA staff who can assist you.
For the complete details about the rules pertaining to licensing, see New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:9B for certification and 6A:9C for professional development, which includes mentoring.
Applications, updated demographics, and fees are submitted electronically by the educator through the New Jersey Teacher Certification Information System (TCIS). You can also view your certification records in TCIS. The entire certification process has undergone major revisions within the last several years. The process veteran educators may have followed is no longer in place.
Below are some general examples of certification rules that may be overlooked or misunderstood.
Certifications rules for novice teachers
Novice teachers who do not yet hold a standard certificate must be enrolled in the Provisional Teacher Process (PTP) if their assignment in the district will last beyond 60 days. Districts are responsible for enrolling them for the first provisional certificate. During the provisional period, teachers holding a Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (CEAS) must receive mentoring and must achieve two effective or highly effective final summative ratings. Districts arrange for the mentoring and submit final summative ratings to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE).
In addition to the two final summative ratings, Certificate of Eligibility (CE) holders must receive more frequent mentoring, must complete an Educator Preparation Program (EPP) and must pass a performance assessment, currently the edTPA.
A provisional certificate may be renewed once for a total of four years. There are a few rare exceptions in which the provisional license may be renewed one more time. Because of recent procedural changes at the NJDOE, renewals of provisional certificates are the responsibility of the teacher candidate, not the district. Once all standard certificate requirements are met, teachers must apply for their own standard certificate. The standard certificate is not initiated by the district or by the NJDOE.
Certification and teaching assignment
Despite the challenges districts are experiencing with staff shortages, all teachers must hold the appropriate certificate for their teaching assignment or job title. The NJDOE maintains a list of approved job titles with corresponding authorized certificates. If teachers work outside of the authorization of their certificate, their tenure and seniority rights may be affected.
In some cases, districts wish to create a new job title. Before assigning a teacher to an unrecognized job title, the district must make a written application through the executive county superintendent. The executive county superintendent has discretion to approve and to determine the appropriate certification and title for the position.
Special education certification and endorsements
Teachers qualified to teach special education in New Jersey hold one of two licenses. The Teacher of the Handicapped (TOH) endorsement is no longer issued but is still valid. TOH holders may teach classified students at all levels except that they must demonstrate two prior years of teaching experience with 3- and 4-year-olds to teach at the preschool level.
The second endorsement, Teacher of Students with Disabilities (TOSD) is not a standalone certificate. Holders of this endorsement may only teach within the scope of their other certificate. For example, a TOSD with a K-6 Elementary endorsement, may teach special education students in the elementary grades. However, all TOSD endorsement holders may provide consultative services and supportive resource programs to students with disabilities in general education programs in preschool through grade 12. In the example of the teacher holding a K-6 elementary endorsement, that teacher may be assigned to provide support within a preschool or a secondary general education class.
New Jersey public schools have seen an expansion of preschool programs. For a general education preschool class, the teacher must possess a Preschool through Grade 3 endorsement (P-3). Or the teacher must hold the Nursery through Grade 8 endorsement (N-8), which is no longer issued but still valid and must demonstrate evidence of two years of experience working with 3- and 4-year-olds.
A TOH or a TOSD may provide consultative and supportive services in these general education programs. In a special education preschool class, the teacher must possess a TOH with 2 years of prior experience or a TOSD and the P-3 endorsement. Special area teachers must possess the subject matter endorsement for their assignment. New Jersey subject matter endorsements such as art, music, physical education, etc. are valid in all public schools, meaning preschool through grade 12. Teachers may check the authorization for their endorsement in the New Jersey Administrative Code.
Educational services certificates
In addition to instructional certificates, the NJDOE issues educational services certificates for 20 different titles including school nurse, school library media specialist, school counselor, student assistance coordinator, speech-language specialist and athletic trainer.
Many of these endorsements do not allow the holder to deliver instruction. For instance, school social workers and school counselors may not deliver instruction unless they hold an instructional certificate in the content or level being taught. On the other hand, school nurses and school library media specialists may provide instruction in health and information literacy skills respectively. Educators should check the authorization and details of their certificate in the New Jersey Administrative Code to be certain.
Emergency certificates are available for some of the educational services certificates. The emergency certificates are valid for one year and expire on July 31 regardless of date of issuance. An emergency certificate may be renewed at the superintendent’s request up to two times. Renewals require evidence of progress toward successful completion of coursework and the tests required for a CE, CEAS, or standard certificate.
Still have questions?
If you are unsure of how these rules apply to you, do not hesitate to reach out to your local association leadership for clarification. They will be able to put you in touch with NJEA staff who can answer your questions.
There are exceptions and nuances that can affect individual situations. Certificated staff should rely upon the responses and determinations of the NJDOE licensing office for their case. When contacting the NJDOE, use your unique tracking number in the subject line of the email. Never send Social Security numbers through email.
You can email the NJDOE licensing office at firstname.lastname@example.org.