Raising The Grade: Board Certified Teachers

Thursday, July 15th 2004, 9:08 am
By: News On 6

It’s a national education list that Oklahoma is actually leading. The state ranks 8th in the country for the number of nationally board certified teachers.

But critics say we're spending millions of dollars on national certification, without proof it helps students. News on 6 anchor Scott Thompson has more on whether national certification is raising the grade or just increasing the bills.

Special Education teacher Jennifer Esau is getting ready to start her sixth year teaching developmentally delayed children. And she says she's definitely found her calling. "I love it they're precious and its just what I'm meant to do."

This fall, Esau wants to take her teaching to the next level. She's one of 400 Oklahoma candidates for National Board Certification. "I just know it’s going to make me a better teacher and it’s a challenge. After teaching for five years, I was kind of ready for a challenge, something different."

Over the next year, Esau will put together a teaching portfolio and take an exam to prove she's a master teacher, worthy of national certification. With the distinction comes a big bonus. As long as they keep teaching, nationally certified teachers receive $5,000 every year for the next decade.

National Board Certified teacher John Perkins: "A lot of teachers I have talked to that have passed national board readily say one of the big reasons is money, that’s a lot of money for a school teacher." And a lot of money for the state. Right now, Oklahoma has 858 nationally certified teachers. Their bonuses alone cost the state more than $40-million. The high costs have critics questioning whether national certification is worth it.

There's a new study from the University of Washington that suggests it is. The study analyzed the test scores of 600,000 North Carolina students. It found students of nationally certified teachers improved their test scores by an average of 7% more than students with teachers who failed to get certified. “Every year, you learn more about yourself and what you can do better. And I'm still learning from that process."

Jennifer Esau says she saw the difference certification could make first-hand. She says her daughter blossomed under a national board certified teacher. “I think so and I know the teacher and she's definitely my inspiration for doing this."

Esau's already is working on her national certification. She expects to log 400 to 600 hours on her portfolio. But she's ready for the challenge; she says it could make all the difference for her students.

The bonus for national board certified teachers are not guaranteed. Lawmakers have to set aside money for them every year. And some say these master teachers might not be teaching the students who really need them.

The Washington study reported the lower income students really benefited from nationally certified teachers. But most national board teachers are in schools in affluent areas with higher family incomes.