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Bill to increase nationally certified teachers' pay moves to the Senate

April 25, 2001
By: Jennifer Ginsberg
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri public school teachers are one step closer to having the state provide monetary incentives for completing the National Board Certification process. This compensation plan, proposed by Gov. Bob Holden, was voted out of the House by a 123 to 33 vote and awaits its next hurdle; the Senate floor.

The plan would give teachers who become certified a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a ten percent salary increase for mentoring other teachers going through the process. Funding for the $1 million plan would come from the state's general revenue.

But, opponents argue the plan does not incorporate a way to evaluate teacher performance and effectiveness, nor has there been any objective evidence that board certified teacher are better than non-board certified teachers in the classroom.

"The key element in increasing student learning is teacher effectiveness," said Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-St. Louis County. "I very much want to find things that are going to make that happen. But, I think we need to assure ourselves that this is what indeed, we are getting."

One way Cunningham tried to do that was by adding an amendment to the bill that would allow the state Education Department to conduct studies that would measure teacher effectiveness.

"Every national certified teacher I've talked to has said they are absolutely certain that teacher effectiveness has increased with this program and they are absolutely certain that student learning goes up as a result of teachers who go through this program," Cunningham said.

"So, I have asked each one of them, if you are absolutely certain, then how about we put in these instruments that measure it and give us a performance and effectiveness evaluation and tie that bonus to that evaluation if it's positive."

Rep. David Levin, R-St. Louis County, also has voiced concerns about performance evaluations.

"Once a teacher receives board certification, even presuming they are better than the average, will they maintain that high standard for the ten year period over which they are getting this $5,000 a year?"

Levin also questions the effectiveness of the program.

"Since 1987, tens of millions of dollars have been thrown at this board certification by the federal government. But to date, there is no objective evidence that board certified teachers are better teachers in the classroom," Levin said.

Ann Harmon, director of research and information for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, referred to a study done by the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro as proof that the certification program does in fact help children.

The board-commissioned study covered student work samples from 36 teachers, 19 certified and 17 non-certified. The study found that 74 percent of the board certified teachers produced students who demonstrated deep understanding of the unit they were taught compared with only 29 percent of non-Board-certified teachers.

The study also examined 65 teachers and found "the National Board Certified Teachers outperformed their non-certified counterparts on every one of 13 generally recognized measures of good teaching, the differences were dramatic on 11 of them."

Some of these "recognized measures of good teaching" include: classroom climate, use of knowledge, problem solving, improvisation, respect for students and passion for teaching and learning.

The study was released last November. It was the first study of the NBTPS certification process. Although, Harmon assures, "the National Board continues to work on studies."

Out of Missouri's 63,000 teachers, 44 are National Board certified. Holden said his goal was to increase that number to 1,000 over the next four years.

Cunningham worries this program could result in being more costly then originally intended.

"If we assume only 1,000 of 63,000 teachers are going to take this, I think we could be very much underestimating that and then we have a fiscal note that we have not capped," Cunningham said.

Marsha Sisson, a middle school teacher at Smithton Middle School in Columbia, was certified in 1998.

"This is such a phenomenal process that is worth the time and energy," Sisson said. "You must be totally committed to your profession."

Sisson and fellow Smithton teacher, Lynda Linneman, both logged more than 300 hours in the four month certification process which culminated in four essay tests, small and large group video tapes as well as a portfolio containing documents of professional collaboration, outreach to parents and self-analysis of the teaching process.

"The process of National Board certification is an arduous task that requires analysis, evaluation and reflection or all classroom practices," Linneman said. "Through the assessment, I have become a more effective, insightful teacher."

But, the part of the certification that excited Steve Kimball, drama teacher at Hazelwood East High School and the only male teacher nationally certified in Missouri, was that the process is teachers judging teachers.

"Standards are developed by compiling teachers and asking them what makes a good teacher in that specific subject area," Kimball said. "It's teachers individually volunteering to go through the process, teachers volunteering to access them. This is created by teachers, that's why I love it, because it's so individual."

The national certification organization is governed by a 63 member board of directors composed of classroom teachers, school administrators, teacher union and school board leaders, governors and state legislators, higher education officials and business and community leaders.

The organization receives support from the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. The national certification project is funded in part with grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

Teachers are eligible for national certification if they hold a baccalaureate degree, have taught for at least three years with a valid state teaching license, or where a license is not required, have taught in schools recognized and approved to operate by the state.