About 10 percent of the District of Columbia’s teaching corps was fired last month for being uncertified.
Washington’s school system let go 531 teachers on June 30, with the support of the local teachers’ union, at a time when school districts nationwide are grappling with teacher shortages. Many of the teachers had allowed their licenses to expire, and about a third had let their 18-month provisional licenses run out.
Patricia Watkins Lattimore, the district’s director of human resources, said the effort to ensure all teachers are certified is part of Superintendent Paul L. Vance’s “top-to-bottom scrub of D.C. schools.” She said teachers have been receiving repeated notices about their certification status since January.
Some of the teachers could be rehired to work for the 72,000-student district once they complete the needed documents, but it’s unclear how many will return to the classroom. Ms. Lattimore said that as teachers come into compliance, they will be offered positions with the school district, but that their original jobs may have been filled in the meantime.
Esther S. Hankerson, the general vice president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said she had counseled several teachers who were upset about losing their positions. Although she believed that miscommunication might have led to the dismissal of some teachers, she acknowledged that others did not comply with the rules. The union will offer additional classes to help teachers remain certified to teach.
“We believe that we should have a certified teacher in every classroom,” Ms. Hankerson said. “If that’s going to ensure that our children get a quality education, then that’s what we want.”
The teachers’ dismissal puts an added burden on the district to recruit teachers for this fall. But Ms. Lattimore said more than 200 teachers already have been hired, which should make up for the annual attrition of teachers. Now, she said, the district will focus on replacing the uncertified teachers.
A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2001 edition of Education Week as D.C. Schools Dismiss 531 Uncertified Teachers