Research shows students learn more from certified teachers.
"There's been a strong increase in new candidates," said David Haselkorn, the senior vice president for institutional advancement with the board, based in Arlington, Va. "Mississippi is one of our strongest states for growth right now."
The bump stems in part from Mississippi lawmakers spending more to help teachers navigate the certification process.
Earlier this week, the national board announced 101 Mississippi teachers had earned certification in 2012. Jackie Parker of the University of Mississippi, who helps teachers earn certification, says that number could double this year. Parker said about half the teachers typically pass the exams the first time. Teachers must compile a portfolio and pass six exams to earn the credential, she said. There are now about 400 teachers enrolled statewide, Parker said.
Parker said the number has gone up because lawmakers gave World Class Teaching centers at various universities more money to recruit candidates. The centers guide candidates through the process.
Mississippi pays teachers who earn certification an extra $6,000 per year, and reimburses the $2,500 fee for taking certification exams. The national board says that's one of the most generous boosts of any state, though not quite the highest.
The growth comes even though the state reduced the amount of money for the stipends. Haselkorn said there weren't enough certified teachers to use all the funds
"There was a small reduction proposed in the amount but it would still be more than enough to cover it," he said.
Parker, a former Tupelo teacher who earned certification, now runs the University of Mississippi's effort to help instructors win the credential. She described it as "the most rigorous process as a teacher that I've gone through."
"What I learned the most about is to let assessments drive my instruction," Parker said. "That way you can take students as high as they can fly."
A study by Harvard University researchers in the Los Angeles school district shows that certified teachers provide their students the equivalent of two extra months of math instruction and one extra month of reading and writing instruction. Researchers cautioned that they couldn't tell if the benefits stemmed from the certification process itself or from the higher quality of teachers who complete the program.
To date, 3,420 teachers have earned certificates in Mississippi. A small fraction of that number who earned certification at the very beginning of the program have allowed it to lapse without the required 10-year renewal, meaning the number of active board certified teachers is somewhat smaller. More than 100,000 teachers nationwide have earned certification, meaning Mississippi, which has only about 1 percent of the nation's population, has more than 3 percent of its certified teachers.
Some Mississippi districts have even higher concentrations. The Tupelo district has had 104 teachers pass the certification, a number equal to almost 20 percent of its current teaching force. Only about 2.5 percent of teachers nationwide are certified, the board said.
Today, the Tupelo district has given the Ole Miss program space to instruct certification candidates not only from its own district but from all over northeast Mississippi, Parker said.
Kay Bishop, a former teacher who is now the spokeswoman for the Tupelo schools, said each school had a mentor to encourage candidates when she was teaching. "I remember those other teachers actively recruiting teachers to become certified," Bishop said.
"The district supports the process," Parker said. "Knowing that the district supports the process has caused teachers to want to be a part of it."
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