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Mississippi Payoff

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Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice has signed legislation that gives teachers in the state who have been certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards an annual pay increase of $3,000 for the 10-year life of the certificate. The state also will reimburse those teachers for the $2,000 cost of undergoing the assessments required for the voluntary certification.

The Detroit-based national board is a privately organized group that is creating a system to assess and certify teachers who meet its high standards of practice. (See story above.) Backers of the board's effort say incentives like the ones just approved in Mississippi are essential if such certification is to take root.

In that state, teachers, school board members, colleges and universities, foundations, and the Republican governor came together to craft and pass the bill. "It was exciting for us to watch happen because it was a grass-roots effort of our advocates who have emerged because of their involvement watching teachers go through this,'' said Mary Dean Barringer, a vice president of the national board. So far, the state has three nationally certified teachers.

"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, president of Blue Mountain (Miss.) College and one of the national board's 63 trustees.

Earlier this year, Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, a Democrat, signed similar legislation. Under the measure, teachers who achieve certification will receive a one-time 5 percent salary bonus. Like Mississippi, the state will reimburse certified teachers for the cost of going through the assessments.

And in Kentucky, lawmakers approved legislation this year that 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.

So far, more than 15 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 this school year.

During the 1995-96 school year, the board offered certificates in two teaching fields. This year, the board will offer six certificates. Eventually, it plans to award certificates in about 30 fields.

--Ann Bradley

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