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Certification Fee Rises

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The cost of national teacher certification is going up. The board of directors of the private organization creating a voluntary nationwide system to certify accomplished teachers has raised the fee for candidates to $2,000. The October decision by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was widely expected.

The new fee, an increase from the $975 charged to teachers who have undergone the process to date, is more closely in line with the actual cost of administering the assessments.

The organization's 63-member board hopes states and districts will be willing to pay the $2,000 fee, which will cover the 1996-97 and 1997-98 school years. Mary-Dean Barringer, the board's vice president of programs for the advancement of teaching, says the organization plans to market national certification as a wise investment of professional-development money. "We feel confident,'' she adds, "that the increase in the fee is certainly not going to be an insurmountable obstacle to launching national board certification in a big way next year.''

When the Detroit-based board was formed in 1987, national certification was seen as an attractive way to restructure the teaching force, providing teachers with new roles and allowing expert teachers to be paid for their knowledge. But the candidates who have gone through the process have viewed it primarily as a valuable learning experience, not as a means of earning recognition or rewards.

The board's assessments are expensive to administer because they try to capture a teacher's performance over time. Candidates assemble portfolios showcasing their classroom activities over several months and then undergo exercises at an assessment center. Classroom teachers score and rescore candidates' work to ensure fairness. But that process also drives up the cost of the assessments. The organization has been working with a national advisory group that has suggested ways to bring down certification costs without sacrificing quality.

Currently, the board is offering two certificates, for generalists and English language arts specialists who work with children in early adolescence. The cost to teachers seeking certification in those areas this year will remain at $975. Next year, in addition to the assessments in those areas, the board plans to offer certificates for early-childhood and middle-childhood generalists; for art teachers who work with children ages 11 through 18; and for math teachers who work with students ages 14 to 18.

--Ann Bradley

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