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Teacher Quality Is the Question After Buyout

Teachers have been in the news a lot lately, with Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and some leaders of the Washington Teachers' Union at odds over her buyout offer aimed at luring hundreds of educators out of the school system. In coming months, the debate over the buyout will shift to the qualifications for the teaching corps of the future as school leaders prepare to replace up to 700 experienced teachers who likely will depart.

The Post reports today that union general vice president Nathan Saunders and trustee Candi Peterson are waging an informal campaign to dissuade teachers at 50 schools slated for closure and academic overhaul from taking the buyout.

But Noah Wepman, the school system's interim chief financial officer, told D.C. Wire today that numerous teachers are moving on the offer: "As of yesterday [the second full day of the offer], 185 people have submitted applications... We're taking this as a positive sign people are acting on it and taking advantage of it."

Rhee had said that 1,700 teachers are eligible. They have until April 25 to apply for the buyouts
-- ranging from $1,000 for five years of service or less to $20,000 for more than 20 years -- which will be given on a first-come, first-served basis. She is offering the plan as an out for teachers who may be uncomfortable with controversial initiatives she is imposing at their schools -- 23 buildings face closure and 27 other ones face an academic overhaul to help students who have repeatedly lagged on tests required under the No Child Left Behind law.

Grappling with a nationwide teaching shortage, D.C. and other school systems have had to rely largely on uncertified teachers coming from such programs as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which Rhee previously ran before accepting the chancellor's position.

Expect State Superintendent of Education Deborah A. Gist to indirectly enter the fray.
Gist, said her spokesman John Stokes, "has had at least two previous discussions [with the State Board of Education] on teacher quality and she will have further discussions Thursday" at the board's monthly meeting.

If D.C. school leaders move to upgrade the qualifications for teachers, what do you think should be included in them?

Dion Haynes

By Dion Haynes  |  April 15, 2008; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  Education  
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