- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2007

The D.C. public school system has struggled to fill nearly half the positions in a division that helps schools comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, even as many schools fail to meet the federal requirements, documents show.

The jobs in the Office of Federal Grants Programs include reading and math coaches to help teachers devise ways to improve student achievement.

But an analysis of 2007 payroll documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows most of those classroom jobs remain vacant.

D.C. school officials did not return repeated requests last week seeking explanation for why so many jobs remain vacant, even as more than half of all students in the District fail to meet proficiency standards for math and reading under the federal act.

A schools spokeswoman said Victor Vyfhuis, executive director of the school system’s federal grants program, was not available for comment Thursday or Friday.

Efforts to hire literacy coaches to help the schools comply with No Child Left Behind have been discussed for years. As far back as 2003, D.C. school board members expressed concern about extending deadlines for filling the positions.

In 2004, interim Superintendent Robert Rice testified before the D.C. Council, calling the hiring of high-quality literacy coaches in elementary schools a critical issue.

Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey announced in February 2006 that a key element of his master plan for the school system would be to increase the number of literacy and math coaches.

He recommended an additional 12 literacy coaches and six math coach positions for this school year, and a dozen more jobs for the 2007-08 school year if the school budget allows.

As of last year, 14 literacy coaches and four math coaches were working in the schools, according to the master plan. But recent payroll records show all seven math coach positions remain vacant.

Also unfilled were seven reading coach, seven parent coordinator and seven design-coach positions, according to pay documents.

“The literacy, math and design coaches are people who are supposed to be in the schools doing professional development training, working with the teachers on-site,” said Mary Levy, who directs the public education reform project for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

It is not clear why the school system has had difficulty filling the positions, which often are filled by teachers already in the school system.

“Most of these coaches, they get plucked out of the schools, and the schools do always not like this,” Miss Levy said.

Another problem has been funding, according to a 2003 review of the school system by the Council of the Great City Schools.

The organization’s conclusions included the finding that the school system wants to place literacy and math coaches in the schools “but has been restricted in doing so because of budget cuts.”

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