ANNAPOLIS-Diane Richmond has taught for seven years. But until last year, she never had enough time to carefully consider which of her lessons worked. Then, the Owings Mills Elementary teacher applied for national teacher certification.
The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, created in 1987, requires applicants to spend a school year taping lessons and assembling a portfolio showing students’ progress. Then, a group of educators familiar with the board’s standards judges the applicant’s work.
Richmond was a member of Maryland’s original class of 18 applicants last year, and one of 13 who passed. Now, she says, parents feel assured their children are in good hands and she feels more confident. “The whole experience confirmed that what we’re doing in Maryland works,” the Baltimore County teacher says.
If Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, has his way, many more of the state’s best teachers will join Richmond in the national certification program. Maryland has funded national certification efforts as part of a three-year pilot program that ends next year. But Pinsky, with two bills he introduced last week, hopes to make the program permanent and add salary incentives for teachers who meet the standard.
Pinsky, who was a teacher for 20 years, says national certification is especially important in light of the controversy surrounding teacher quality in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, where the rates of teachers with state certification are far below Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s goal of 90 percent. Pinsky thinks his bills would attack the problem from a different, but equally important angle, encouraging the state’s good teachers to become great.
Pinsky’s incentive plan calls for the state to grant up to $2,000 annually to teachers who win certification. Counties would be asked to match part of the state grant. The structure, Pinsky says, is designed to encourage local governments to reward their best teachers.
A spokeswoman for Glendening says that while the governor is most concerned with bringing all teachers to acceptable state levels, he supports any effort to reward exceptional teachers. Pinsky says he expects Glendening to support his bills
The state pays two-thirds of the $2,000 application fee for national certification with the teacher’s home county paying the other one-third. Up to 48 Maryland teachers per year are eligible for the rigorous process, which adds about one day of work a week for most applicants, according to the national board’s web site.
A House bill on teacher incentives, scheduled to be heard Wednesday, includes a plan to increase nationally certified teacher salaries 10 percent for each of the 10 years the certification lasts. Pinsky’s plan has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.
Assistant State Superintendent Lawrence E. Leak says he is excited to hear the program may be extended and given more funding. Leak, who oversees accreditation and certification for the state, thinks the program has already done the state proud. He points to the 72 percent success rate for Maryland applicants, nearly double the national success rate of 37 percent, as a sign that many teachers deserve more recognition for their skills.
Nationally certified teachers become special assets to their schools, Leak says. “They create the potential for a lot of conversations about quality teaching.”
Encouraging excellent teachers to become resources for other teachers is one of the national board’s main goals.
Richmond says her conversations with fellow teachers, who have asked her advice, deepened during the process.
“I feel a new connection with my colleagues all over the state,” she says.
In addition to promoting dialogue between teachers, the national board hopes to convince teachers they are responsible for monitoring student performance and for thinking systematically about the relative success of their lessons.
Thirty more Maryland teachers are assembling applications, and they will find out in the fall if they achieved certification. Pinsky says he is happy the program has grown, but he thinks salary incentives will increase the numbers rapidly.
North Carolina, for example, has committed $10 million to the program, and as a result, boasts 329 nationally certified teachers. There are 1,836 nationally certified teachers in the country. -30-