"It's just wrong. It's going to affect kids. The bottom line is that what you're doing here is affecting lives," said Keith Butler, who helps special education students with math in an Atlanta high school. "You shouldn't set students up for failure, but now they've set up the teachers for failure."
Butler said teachers are at risk of being fired because the Atlanta system is requiring them to become certified in a specific subject area, in addition to their qualifications as special education teachers.
Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the school district's senior leadership team will meet this week to decide how to handle the situation.
Alford couldn't confirm that special education teachers are required to be certified in another field.
"No final decision has been made. We want to make sure we have highly qualified teachers for all of our students," Alford said. "I don't want to say it's not going to affect anybody, but at this point, we don't know who it will impact."
Butler said the school district gave teachers time to gain additional certifications, but many of them failed certification tests that other teachers train for in college. He said he attempted the math test twice but wouldn't be able to pass it without earning a degree in that subject.
It wasn't clear how many teachers may be affected by potential nonrenewal of their contracts.
Special education teachers have called the Atlanta Federation of Teachers with concerns that their contracts might not be renewed for next school year, AFT President Verdaillia Turner said.
"They told us that they had not been given anything in writing, but that they received a call that they would not receive an APS contract because they are not certified in a preferred area," Turner said.
Teachers plan to meet with APS officials Monday evening at Therrell High School, where they will voice their concerns in hopes of being offered employment contracts for next school year, Hayes-Tavares and Butler said.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.