Mass. web site snafus block new teachers

A $2.6 million state web site that was supposed to cut red tape for potential teachers has instead left hundreds who have fulfilled requirements without certifications needed to teach in Massachusetts.

Officials said the site would speed up the bureaucratic process of becoming a teacher, but technical bugs have done just the opposite. And the need for human verification didn’t go away—it only increased when the office’s 30-person staff was cut by one-third.

At press time, just 123 of 2,767 people who used the web site had received their licenses, according to a Boston Globe analysis of state Department of Education (DOE) statistics. Either technical glitches or incomplete applications have been blamed for the slowdown.

The timing could hardly have been worse, as school districts scurried to hire new teachers for the fall.

“We have very desperate people who have a deadline,” said Beverly Miyares, a professional development specialist with the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which has received at least 100 complaints about the online certification system. “It’s a terrible dilemma for teachers trying to move up through a bureaucracy that is immovable.”

Some teachers only got credentials after calling their state legislators, Miyares said. The DOE has urged superintendents to call its licensure office with names of new hires whose credentials haven’t come through.

“It’s a priority here that districts are not going to be harmed by this, and people are not going to lose out on jobs because we have a backlog,” DOE spokeswoman Heidi B. Perlman said. “We’re absolutely making it a priority to get those people certified immediately.”

In the past, DOE workers in the licensure office had to process teaching certificates, but it took as long as eight months. Officials hoped that moving the procedure online could speed it up, and the web site let teachers enter their academic information, along with a credit card number to cover the fee. Certificates had been promised in two weeks or less.

Technical bugs ended the payment option, but the DOE encouraged teachers to keep using the site, especially during business hours when help was available.

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