- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

D.C. Public Schools has a shortage of well-trained and qualified teachers, according to a report released this month by DC Voice, a group of activists concerned with the quality of education.

Titled the “Ready Schools Project,” which is the final report of a three-part series, the study was released May 8 at a town hall meeting at All Souls Church in Northwest.

“The common denominator with both the teachers union and the District of Columbia Public Schools and community members is professional development, the need for training and expertise within our teacher corps,” said Jeff Smith, executive director of DC Voice. “All sides of the equation seem to understand the problem, appreciate and want better supports in place for teachers, so they can be good at their jobs.”

The report also found that Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee had not filled 225 teaching positions before the first day of school last fall, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year. The most common reasons for the vacancies given by the principals interviewed were the lack of applications for such positions as math and special-education teachers, the report states.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said he had not yet read the report and could not comment. A spokeswoman for D.C. Public Schools, Jennifer Calloway, said the same.

Nathan Saunders, vice president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, said he could not comment on the findings until he reads the study.

“I work at a school where [the shortage of teachers the first day] was a big problem,” said Yarel Marshall, a community organizer with the Tellin’ Stories Project for Teaching for Change, who attended the town hall. “You were having substitute teachers. The principal had to take a day and teach in the classroom. You had discipline issues you had to deal with. There was a lot of lost time.”

Using data collected from interviews with 109 D.C. school principals last year, the Ready Schools Project report makes policy recommendations in four areas that would improve the quality of education in the city’s schools: professional development, parental involvement, teacher hiring and wraparound services.

“Now the next step is taking some action,” Ms. Marshall said.

• Joseph Young is a writer and photographer living in the District.

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