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States Offer Incentives to Teachers Seeking Certification

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A handful of states and school districts are offering financial rewards or other incentives for teachers seeking recognition from the private, national body that certifies "expert" teachers.

North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and other states have cleared time for staff development or set aside money to help teachers who undergo the voluntary assessments of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Some states have loosened coursework requirements for teachers who successfully complete the board's evaluation process.

The Boston and Vancouver, Wash., school systems are among the districts to set policies or adopt contract language encouraging teachers to become board certified.

Other state, district, and teachers' union officials are expected to lobby for similar incentives.

Educators say the recent push to compensate master teachers or allow them to waive state-certification requirements will add muscle to the board's mission to professionalize teaching. Such incentives, they point out, could entice more teachers to undergo the rigorous assessments, which will be widely available this fall for some teachers of early-adolescent students.

Professional rewards and policies that ease teacher mobility "are the big-ticket items that teachers will look at in deciding whether certification is worth it," said Jim Sork, the manager of the Center for Educational Leadership, part of the Vancouver public schools.

The 63-member national board--established in 1987 to set standards for exemplary teachers--piloted its first two performance-based assessments over the past year. (See Education Week, April 20, 1994.)

The board plans to field-test assessments this year for five more types of certificates and envisions an evaluation system covering more than 30 teaching specialties.

Board officials said they hope not only to strengthen the profession and improve student learning, but also to give teachers more flexibility to move between states and more chances for advancement.

'Building a Model'

North Carolina has passed the most comprehensive legislation to date supporting the certification.

Prompted by the recommendations of a panel convened by Gov. James B. Hunt Jr., the chairman of the national board, the legislature approved a bill in July setting aside $500,000 over the next year to help teachers vying for the board's endorsement.

The state will reimburse teachers for the $975 fee for the assessments, authorize up to three days of release time for working on portfolios or other board activities, and award a 4 percent pay raise to teachers who become nationally certified, said Karen Garr, the teacher adviser to Governor Hunt.

The state also adopted a policy of "reciprocity," which entitles teachers from outside North Carolina to practice there without meeting state-specific requirements.

Mississippi lawmakers have approved a bill that eventually will give board-certified teachers a $3,000 salary supplement. In Iowa, the education department will permit districts to farm out staff-development money to teachers seeking certification.

Board officials praised the states for taking a lead, even as the organization's national system is under development.

"They're building a model of support that I think other governors, state boards, and unions will be looking at," said James A. Kelly, the president of the board, which is based in Detroit.

Leads, Mentors, and Money

Several districts have approved policies or teachers' contracts to complement the board's work.

The Boston Teachers' Union and the city's school district, for example, recently negotiated a contract that will reimburse 25 teachers a year for the board fees and make teachers who pass the assessments eligible for "lead teacher" status. The title carries with it a 10 percent pay raise and additional professional duties.

The Vancouver district, which gives individual teachers a $500 annual stipend for staff development, has agreed to match that amount to cover board fees. Teachers who become certified will also get special status and financial rewards.

"We're trying to do things in the district that call attention to the teachers" who get certified, Mr. Sork said.

The Rochester, N.Y., and Fairfax County, Va., schools also will offer financial incentives or coursework credits to board-certified teachers.

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