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370 Uncertified Teachers Will Be Fired; 450 at Risk

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By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 25, 2006

More than 370 D.C. teachers will be dismissed Friday because they have failed to produce proof of their certification or evidence that they are trying to obtain a license, school officials said.

An additional 450 teachers who are close to receiving their credentials will lose their jobs in September if the school system is able to find certified teachers to replace them. If they stay on, they will have until June 2007 to obtain their license.

Superintendent Clifford B. Janey announced early this year that all uncertified teachers would be terminated June 30. But some are getting a reprieve because school officials are worried that they might not be able to fill all the vacancies -- in addition to 300 or so caused by retirements -- with qualified teachers by the fall, said Erika L. Wesley, the system's licensure administrator.

"We thought it was better to keep onboard teachers who met the majority of requirements than to hire people who were less certified than the teachers we already had," said Wesley, who is overseeing the recruiting effort.

Janey said in January that 1,100 uncertified teachers, about 25 percent of the system's teaching force, had expired licenses or had not submitted proof of having a D.C. license. He said the teachers had repeatedly been warned and would be dismissed if they did not become certified by Friday.

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires school systems to use only "highly qualified" teachers -- a standard that requires full certification -- by June 2007. Janey said in his January announcement that he was opting to impose the regulation one year early.

Since then, about 275 teachers have received their certification, officials said.

The group of 450 -- those close to receiving certification -- will be given the opportunity to put their names in a pool for teaching positions in the fall and will be selected if the school system is unable to find enough certified teachers.

Special education and math teachers in that pool probably will have the best chance of being placed in a position, Wesley said, because those jobs traditionally are hard to fill. Teachers who have not been placed by late August or early September will be dismissed, she added.

"We're going to look at our recruitment data to place certified teachers first," Wesley said.

Nathan Saunders, vice president of the Washington Teachers' Union, said the union supports the plan to give the 450 teachers trying to earn a license an opportunity to stay in the system.

Some of the teachers simply need to pass the District's licensing exam, and others need more college credit hours in the subject they are teaching, according to school and union officials. The large ranks of uncertified teachers are a result of poor record-keeping and a previous lack of enforcement, among other factors.

The teachers who will be dismissed Friday "did not comply with the instruction to get certified. There was nothing the union could do to assist them," Saunders said. "The union stands for high academic goals and standards."

Wesley said the school system would closely monitor the progress of uncertified teachers who remain in the system. Officials will keep up with the courses they take and their testing dates to ensure that they meet the June 2007 deadline, she said.

Saunders said that some teachers of courses other than math have difficulty passing the math portion of the licensing exam. The union and school system are offering math courses to help prepare them, he said.

"If you're an English or art teacher, you may not have had a high enough level of math needed to pass the test," he said.

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