National Board Numbers Continue to Climb; 755 Join South Carolina Ranks

December 9, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – December 9, 2008 – Another 755 South Carolina teachers have achieved National Board certification, up from 651 in 2007, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced today.

The 2008 results bring the number of state teachers receiving their profession’s highest credential to 6,499, third highest in the nation.  North Carolina and Florida still rank first and second, respectively.

National Board Certified teachers make up 13 percent of the Palmetto State’s teaching force. Nearly a third of South Carolina’s National Board Certified teachers work in Title 1 schools.

“National Board is a rigorous process that requires dedication, countless hours of hard work and a great deal of sacrifice, not only by our teachers, but by their families as well,” said State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex.  “Achieving teachers tell me that it strengthens what they do in the classroom and forever changes them. That can only have a positive impact on instruction.  I congratulate all of them.” 

For nearly two years, Rex has focused on improving teacher quality. He’s made reinvigorating and elevating teaching a key component of his plan to reform the state’s schools.  

Professional development is key to improving teacher quality, says one of the state’s newest achievers.  Ann Marie Taylor, a member of the 2008 National Board class, has a unique perspective.

As South Carolina’s Teacher of the Year, she traveled the state extensively during 2007-08.  She visited schools and communities, talking to teachers, administrators, students and community leaders about public education’s challenges and successes. 

“South Carolina teachers definitely want meaningful professional development – training opportunities that meet their specific needs,” Taylor said.  “That’s what this process does. National Board is tailored professional development.”

The special education teacher applied for her credential shortly after she was named Kershaw County Teacher of the Year.  The following year she was out of the classroom as the state’s ambassador, so she took the full three-year period to complete the process. 

Taylor said her experience enabled her to examine a situation in her classroom, come up with a big question, and then answer it.  She focused on a child with severe sensory issues who wasn’t “comfortable in his own skin” and developed a strategy that not only helped him academically, but in other aspects of his life as well. 

“The certification process, and the fact that I didn’t get it the first time, is what changed me as teacher,” Taylor said.  “I had to reflect and re-examine my teaching, even the parts that I really felt comfortable about.  The second time around, I looked hard at what mattered in the lives of my students. As a result, that little boy’s life was changed.  If I had passed the first year, I don’t know if I would have learned as much.”

South Carolina became involved in the National Board process 15 years ago.  In 1994, five teachers earned the designation. The highest one-year total came in 2002, when 1,073 teachers were certified.

Three South Carolina school districts are among the nation’s leaders in the number of newly-certified National Board Teachers this year.  Greenville County ranks 14th (75 new certifications), followed by Richland Two and Horry County at 17th and 18th (58 new certifications each).  Greenville County (473), Richland Two (453) and Charleston County School District (388) rank in the top 20 nationally for total number of Board-certified teachers. 

The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA), based at Winthrop University, provides a support infrastructure to make teachers aware of the program and to assist them in navigating and completing the process.  CERRA’s help includes a district liaison in each of the state’s 85 school districts, the Board Certification Network of South Carolina Educators and collaboration with the South Carolina Department of Education and other state agencies.

Across the country, most states provide salary incentives and cover the cost for teachers who pursue and achieve national certification. South Carolina gives achievers a $7,500 annual salary supplement for every year that they teach after receiving certification, for the 10-year life of their certificates.

NBPTS is committed to increasing the number of certified teachers in high-need schools and in schools eligible for Title I funding, where teacher recruitment is often difficult.

At McCormick Elementary School, kindergarten teacher Pamela Hill Turman is newly certified.  A graduate of McCormick High School and in her seventh teaching year, Turman left her hometown to earn a degree at Lander University.  She worked in Greenwood School District 50 for five years – a rewarding experience, but she longed to teach at home, where her own son was attending school. 

“At first, I wondered about my decision to return to McCormick, but everyone embraced me immediately – from teachers I’ve known for years to parents in the Food Lion,” Turman said. 

“Our district was wonderful, providing the seven who applied from my school with tremendous support.  CERRA came in and did workshops, and my colleagues and I brainstormed and swapped ideas. We also received help from teachers who were already Nationally Board certified.”

Turman, who earned certification on her first attempt, said the process has made her more conscious of her techniques and more reflective of her strategies. Today, she’s always searching for resources, better ways to teach her students.  She advises candidates to try not to become stressed but to do their best.

“A lot of the things the Board asks, good teachers are already doing,” Turman said.

Teachers undertake a two-part process that takes one to three years to complete. It requires candidates to reflect on their classroom practices, their understanding of subject material and their preparation techniques.  In addition to preparing a portfolio with videotapes of classroom teaching, lesson plans, student work samples and reflective essays, teachers must complete assessment center exercises based on content knowledge that proves not only that they have mastered the subjects they teach, but also that they know how to teach them.

The National Board process defines the knowledge, skills and accomplishments that symbolize teaching excellence. It was created so that teachers – just as professionals in other fields – could achieve distinction by demonstrating through a demanding performance assessment that they can meet high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.

“We’re proud of all South Carolina’s teachers who participate in the process, said Dr. Gayle Sawyer, CERRA Executive Director. We celebrate with those who received certification this year and offer continued support and encouragement to those teachers who are still working toward that goal.

NBC standards are incorporated in the teaching performance standards in many states and in the standards for teacher preparation programs around the country.  We are fortunate that our legislature appreciates the impact of the NBC process as a high level of quality professional development and as a career path for our teachers Sawyer said.

CERRA is the oldest and most established teacher recruitment program in the country.   It provides leadership in identifying, attracting, placing and retaining well-qualified individuals for the teaching profession in South Carolina. CERRA’s programs have been adopted at school, district and state levels in more than 30 states in the United States.