By Lauren E. Williams, Special to the AFRO
Last week, Washingtonians heard concerning news about the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS): 1,000 current D.C. educators do not have the proper certification to teach in the classroom. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) uncovered this information late last year.
Following recent reports of lower graduation rates this June, interim DCPS Chancellor Amanda Alexander finds herself under scrutiny again. But, according to a DCPS spokesperson, a teaching certification is not the only “assessment” the District’s teachers go through.
“DCPS works hard to have a highly effective teacher in every classroom,” a DCPS spokesperson said in an email to the AFRO on June 26th. “Ensuring teachers have a license is one of many components we look at to determine whether teachers are meeting our high standards. We will continue to hold our teachers to high standards, and we are partnering with OSSE to ensure more teachers have active licenses or are in the process to obtain one before the start of the next school year.”
In addition to a license, the DCPS selection process includes a background check, an evaluation and professional development.
Research also shows that a teaching certification may not be directly correlated with high academic outcomes. After studying the relationship among applicants in DCPS’ hiring process, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in 2016 found that selection using basic credentials such as certification and completion of graduate education is likely to yield few benefits. Further, the NBER found that “credentials have little or no power to explain variation in performance across teachers.”
Despite what some may describe as a robust hiring process and research disputing some of the importance of licensure, members of the education community – including parents, practitioners, and elected officials – have voiced concerns about the newest scandal in the District’s public school system. Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, is one of the most prominent voices.
“There remains a greater question about whether we have the appropriate requirements in place for all school staff in both our traditional public and public charter schools,” Councilmember Grasso said in a June 21 statement, “The Committee on Education will be focused on that question over the summer as part of its work to improve school safety and will hold hearings on this matter once the Council returns from its recess in September.”
The good news is plans are underway for all DCPS teachers to be certified. “We are working with the Washington Teacher’s Union to inform all current, unlicensed employees that they must have applied for an initial or standard credential with OSSE before the start of school year 2018-2019,” a DCPS spokesperson told the AFRO. “DCPS will also provide targeted supports to our educators in navigating the licensure process in collaboration with OSSE.“
New teachers will be held to similar standards. All new educators starting with DCPS in the next school year and beyond will be required to apply for a teaching credential with OSSE prior to their start date with DCPS.