Balto. County teachers without full credentials declining, report finds

But low-performing schools are found to have most of them

December 22, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

The number of Baltimore County teachers lacking full credentials is declining, but such teachers are still disproportionately concentrated in low-performing, high-minority schools, according to a report presented to the county school board last night.

Of the district's 7,925 teachers, 649 lack full credentials. Last year, the district had 7,663 teachers, of whom 856 lacked full credentials.

Despite that improvement, Southwest Academy, Old Court Middle, Woodlawn High and Randallstown High - all in western Baltimore County and more than 90 percent minority - have more than twice the school district average of teachers without full credentials.

Countywide, 11 percent of middle school teachers and 15 percent of high school teachers are "conditionally certified," meaning they lack full credentials and have a limited time in which to earn them. At Southwest Academy, a middle school in the Woodlawn area, 36 percent of teachers are conditionally certified. At Randallstown High, the number is 33 percent.

Other schools with a disproportionately high percentage of conditionally certified teachers are Deer Park Magnet Middle, Woodlawn Middle, New Town High and Milford Mill Academy.

The report comes as the school district negotiates with its teachers union over a new rule limiting the ability of fully credentialed teachers in low-performing schools to transfer to other schools within the district. The rule prohibits a "highly qualified" teacher from transferring from a low-performing school without a "highly qualified" replacement.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires all teachers to be "highly qualified" by the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. For middle and high schools, that means teachers must pass a test or otherwise show mastery of the subjects they teach.

District officials say the limit on teacher transfers, first used this school year, has helped lower the number of teachers without full credentials at low-performing schools. At Old Court Middle, for example, the percentage of teachers without full credentials declined from 45 percent last year to 29 percent this year.

"Hopefully, the whole question of the transfer will be moot by 2007, when every teacher and every aide has to be highly qualified," school board President James R. Sasiadek said in an interview before last night's meeting. "In the meantime, we must meet the letter of the law."

But Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said the practice is unnecessarily harsh, leaving some teachers feeling trapped in their schools. She said a "revolving door" of teachers in low-performing schools will continue if the district does not make them more desirable places to work.

"We're looking to have a more equitable process," she said before the meeting.

Alpheus Arrington, the district's director of personnel, said at the meeting that only seven transfer requests were denied this year for lack of highly qualified replacements.

The report outlines some of the strategies the district is using to boost the number of highly qualified teachers in its classrooms. It is offering tuition assistance to teachers lacking full certification who work in Title 1 schools, which serve a large number of poor children. At certain schools, the district is hiring December college graduates who meet the definition of "highly qualified" to team teach with experienced teachers for the rest of the school year.

This school year, the district also offered signing bonuses and relocation stipends at certain schools. Eighty-one teachers received signing bonuses this year.

Other statistics contained in the school staffing report: Of 974 teachers hired this school year, 193 lack full credentials, down from 284 among new hires last year and 330 two years ago.

In Title 1 schools, 104 teachers - or 5.5 percent of the staff - lack full certification. Among them, 23 are new hires. Since 2002, No Child Left Behind has required all new hires in Title 1 schools to be highly qualified.

The report also showed an increase in the district's minority hiring patterns. Twenty percent of this year's new teachers are minorities, up from 16 percent the previous two years.

Forty-four percent of the school district's 108,000 students are minority, compared with about 15 percent of teachers.

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