EDITORIAL: New certifications

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi added 120 National Board Certified Teachers in its schools this year, bringing the expertise and enhanced skills the rigorous certification process produces into our state’s classrooms. But the total was the lowest since 1998, a decline that must not become a long-term trend.
Twenty-one districts in Northeast Mississippi added at least one certified teacher, 43 in all, which is positive. Time and results show the program hones the skills and gifts teachers already have, so more is better in terms of gaining certification for more teachers.
The 120 new certified teachers compares to 222 in 2009, 216 in 2008, and 159 in 2007.
Monroe County added five certificate holders this year.
Pontotoc County, Lee County, Tishomingo County and Starkville each added four.
Oxford added three.
New Albany, Lafayette County, Calhoun County, Pontotoc City and West Point each added two.
Benton County, Union County, Prentiss County, Corinth, Marshall County, Tupelo, Aberdeen, Itawamba County, Booneville and North Tippah each added one.
Tupelo, with 99 certified teachers, ranks third overall statewide, led by Rankin County and Jackson, and followed by Madison and DeSoto counties.
Some school leaders believe uncertainty that hung over state funding guarantees for the $6,000-per-year salary supplement that accompanies certification could have discouraged some prospective teacher enrollments in the program. The Legislature and Gov. Haley Barbour should deal quickly to erase doubts about the state’s commitment.
The top year for certifications was 2001, when 392 Mississippi teachers completed the arduous process. School district leaders and state leaders should encourage that level of national certifications annually – another tangible commitment to improvement in the classroom.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the organization that sets and maintains the standards for teaching excellence, reported Tuesday that Mississippi ranks eighth overall, with 3,222 board certified teachers. More than 91,000 teachers have been certified nationwide. Mississippi unfortunately does not rank among the leaders in the rate of increase or the number of new certifications.
The non-partisan National Research Council found that students taught by NBCTs make higher gains on achievement tests than students taught by other teachers. That evidence should encourage every district’s leaders to develop interest in undertaking the board certification process.