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Miss. Measure To Give Pay Boost To Nationally Certified Teachers

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Gov. Kirk Fordice of Mississippi has signed legislation rewarding teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Mississippi teachers who earn national certification will receive an annual pay increase of $3,000 for the 10-year life of the certificate. The state also will reimburse them for the $2,000 cost of undergoing the assessments required for the voluntary certification.

The national board, based in Detroit, is a privately organized group that is crafting a system to assess and certify teachers who meet its standards for accomplished practice. There are currently 268 nationally certified teachers.

Backers of the national-certification effort say incentives like the ones in the Mississippi law are essential if such certification is to take root.

Mary Dean Barringer, a vice president of the national board, said that in Mississippi, teachers, school board members, colleges and universities, foundations, and the Republican governor came together to pass the bill.

"It was exciting for us to watch happen because it was a grassroots effort of our advocates who have emerged because of their involvement watching teachers go through this," she said.

The state now has three nationally certified teachers in its schools.

"Whenever we have a chance to help teachers improve, to help teachers with their professional development, and to recognize them for a job well done, we are, in turn, positively impacting the learning environment for our children," said Harold Fisher, the president of Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Miss., and a member of the national board's 63-member board of directors.

Gaining Momentum

National certification, and the promise it holds for boosting teacher quality and professionalism, appears to have bipartisan appeal.

In Georgia, Gov. Zell Miller, a Democrat, also signed legislation last month to reward nationally certified teachers.

Georgia teachers who achieve certification will receive a one-time, 5 percent salary bonus. The state also will reimburse certified teachers for the cost of going through the assessments.

And in Kentucky, a law passed this year makes nationally certified teachers eligible for the highest rank in the state's three-level licensure system. They will receive a salary bonus from the state and also possibly from their districts.

Sixteen states have taken some type of action on national certification, including convening task forces, paying for teachers to go through the assessment process, setting up support networks, and recognizing certification as a professional-development activity.

Numerous school districts also have taken steps to support and reward teachers who undergo the process. In Spartanburg, S.C., for example, the district will provide a one-time bonus of $2,000 for teachers who achieve national certification next school year.

This school year, certificates in two subjects are available. Next year, the organization will offer six. Eventually, the national board plans to award certificates in about 30 teaching fields.

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