National Board Certification serves multiple purposes for teachers in Washington. Like teachers in every state, the National Board Certification process provides a structure that teachers can use to analyze and reflect about their practice. Unlike every state, in Washington, teachers can enroll and certify through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards as a way to earn second tier certification, a requirement for thousands of teachers in our state.
The Washington State Senate just passed Senate Bill 5607 and this bill is now in the House. 5607 seeks to meet our state’s need to fully fund basic education. Buried on page 51 and 52 of the bill is a provision that eliminates the state paid bonus and instead offers ,“ A school district board of directors may provide a bonus to a certificated instructional staff person who has attained certification from the national board for professional teaching standards.” For the 6000 NBCTs in our state and the hundreds that are currently in process, this single sentence creates serious anxiety. According to data provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, twenty four states do not offer any state level compensation for National Board Certification. Of those twenty four states, fourteen have 1% or fewer NBCTs in their state. For those states dedicating an annual bonus of $4000 or more, the percentage of NBCTs in the state rises dramatically. In Washington, 15% of our teachers are NBCTs. Two other states rival our percentage. South Carolina offers a similar state wide bonus ($5000 per year) and 18% of their teachers are NBCTs. North Carolina, 21% of their teachers are NBCTs, pairs National Board Certification with their state salary schedule. NBCTs receive 12% above base pay. Simply put, states with higher stipends have a larger percentage of NBCTs.
The removal of the state paid bonus will place pressure on local school districts to pay these stipends. Yet, with lack of clarity around how schools will be funded, it becomes even more unclear how districts will be able to fund stipends. Districts that allocate funds to replace the state stipend will inevitably find themselves with a larger proportion of NBCTs than districts that are unable. This feature will create more inequality between districts, not less. In areas with several school districts to choose from, NBCTs will likely consider whether they can afford to remain in a district that cannot support a stipend. Locally bargained stipends will create competition between districts for these accomplished teachers. Simply put, the goal of lawmakers in our state should not be to create this level of competition between districts.
When I began my National Board journey in 2004, there was a small bonus associated with certification. I was in my first five years of teaching and that bonus absolutely incentivized the large amount of work that the process presented. When the bonus increased, more teachers sought certification. These teachers have demonstrated that they:
- Are committed to students and their learning
- Know the subjects they teach and how to teach them to students
- Are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
- Think systemically about their practice and learn from experience
- Are members of learning communities*
These teachers ordered their financial lives around the promise that our lawmakers would honor their accomplishments. If the goal is to retain quality teachers in the classroom, then perhaps the legislature should reconsider this provision in SB 5607.
*The Five Core Propositions found at http://www.nbpts.org/five-core-propositions