- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP) — The city’s school system will not transfer about 150 teaching assistants to meet federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act, officials said.

School officials were to move assistants rated “qualified” to schools in poor neighborhoods, while those considered “not qualified” were to be moved to wealthier schools.

However, school spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt said last week that the notification to reassign instructional paraprofessionals in non-Title 1 schools and charter schools has been rescinded.

“They will remain in their current school assignment,” she said.

The only employees who will change jobs this week are 40 qualified school aides who have not been working in classrooms, the Baltimore Sun reported. They have agreed to be transferred into classroom assignments at Title 1 schools, which enroll high-poverty student populations.

As qualified teaching assistants celebrate getting to stay where they are, the fate of 75 assistants who are not considered qualified under the federal act was not clear.

The act required all teaching assistants in poor schools to be “highly qualified” by June last year. To be rated as highly qualified, an assistant must have an associate degree or pass a state test.

Officials will review the 75 assistants in Title 1 schools who still don’t meet those criteria by Feb. 1.

“If they either do not meet the minimum requirements by the end of the year or we have no other positions for them, then obviously they would face possible termination,” Gary Thrift, the school system’s human resources officer, told the newspaper.

“That is not our objective. Our objective is to try to maintain the work force and find suitable locations for them.”

School officials have said they would lose millions of dollars in funding for their Title 1 schools if they did not come into compliance with the “highly qualified” provision in the act.

State officials said the city could not obtain an extension from the federal government, but William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education, said he was mistaken about that. State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick plans to ask the federal government to give Baltimore an extension.

Classroom assistants and parents have said the system did not prepare properly for the transfers, and now is disrupting the lives of the assistants and the relationships they have built with children.

Roxanne Harrison, a qualified assistant who has worked in a variety of positions at Morrell Park Elementary-Middle School since 1979, was eager last week to tell the children in her kindergarten class that she doesn’t have to leave them.

“My kids screamed,” she said. “I said, ‘Tomorrow, we party. I’m bringing in a cake.’ ”

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