BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Alabama State Department of Education continues its push to get more National Board-Certified Teachers (NBCTs) in local public schools by offering grants for educators interested in undertaking the intense certification process.
The state grants will help more than 100 teachers pay for the nearly $2,000 in certification costs. Additionally, teachers who successfully become NBCTs receive a $5,000 bump in pay. NBCTs willing to work in areas of need can add thousands more to that.
National Board Certification is considered the highest professional development standard teachers can achieve. Research by Harvard University showed students of board certified teachers gain the equivalent of about two months of additional instruction in some subjects.
Financial and professional support for NBCTs has grown across the state in recent years, resulting in 2,530 Alabama educators receiving the voluntary professional accreditation. Alabama ranks 10th in the country in both the number of certified teachers and percentage of educators.
Yet Alabama students rank 49th in reading and 50th in the country according to data from the 2016 ACT Aspire assessments. That particular assessment has since been replaced by the State Board of Education, and education policy gurus are hopeful a new method for measuring achievement will show great gains. NBCT advocates insist that encouraging more educators to pursue the certification can assist in driving student achievement.
"It transforms your teaching," NBCT Jennifer Anders, who works as a librarian at Corner High School. She says the process forces educators to really get to know their students and plan a lesson for each, not one for an entire class.
"I was able to plan richer lessons that way and really pull out what the students knew," said Anders.
Districts have also found ways to encourage teachers to achieve national certification. Jefferson County's Public Education Foundation developed a Stellar Teaching Program to not only assist teachers with the cost of professional development, but also to help them be successful in the four stages of certification. The program works with an average of 50 NBCT candidates per year. The Foundation reports a success rate of 60 percent in certification candidates, while the national passing rate for certification is 33 percent.
"I think our kids deserve to have teachers who do reflect on their practice," NBCT Jessica Silas of Corner High School tells WBRC. "Kids deserve teachers who continue to learn and grow, who look at the latest research and see what helps kids learn."
Districts employing the most NBCTs in the state are:
Jefferson County: 251
Birmingham City: 156
Vestavia Hills: 101
Shelby County: 88
Applications are due by September 14, 2018.