Renewing ‘master teacher’ funding a no-brainer

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 20, 2009

A classroom teacher certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards doesn’t have to have a master’s degree or a doctorate. What the teacher has to do is prove, after paying to enroll in a yearlong testing and evaluation process, a record of effectiveness in conveying knowledge to young people as well as working as an advocate for education in the larger community.

It’s no cakewalk.

The good news is that teachers in the Vicksburg Warren School District and in Mississippi, overall, are national leaders in seeking and earning certification. Totals released last week showed 222 more Mississippi teachers awarded the “master teacher” distinction in 2009, pushing the total to about 3,500 statewide and ranking Mississippi 13th nationwide in raw numbers.

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It would be nice if this were all due to altruism, but there’s a big-time carrot attached. While some states offer only pats on the back to NBPTS-certified teachers, Mississippi boosts their pay by $6,000 per year over the life of the certification, which lasts 10 years. That’s more than the boost for teachers with advanced college degrees, but again, there’s a major difference. While the independent certification process requires teachers to show they know their subject areas inside and out, they must also demonstrate not only how they plan to convey knowledge to students, but that they have, in fact, records of effective teaching. Those who aren’t good enough in the classroom — which is where it really counts — fail.

As everyone knows, the state is cutting back on education spending along with everything else. More cuts will come.

To keep the NBPTS supplement going next school year, the Legislature and school districts will need to earmark about $21 million for that purpose.

To be able to retain and encourage proven, effective teachers in lean times at such a low cost, given the billions in local, state and federal dollars going to schools, seems like a no-brainer. Here’s hoping lawmakers agree.