Alabama, like most states, is struggling to keep teachers. The need is greater in lower-performing schools and school areas. Schools that are low-performing struggle more than the high-performing schools to attract and retain high-quality teachers, reported AL.com.
With funding from Alabama lawmakers, education officials have already enacted an incentive program to give bonuses to high-quality teachers who work in academically or poverty-challenged schools.
Now, National Board Certified teachers, who are considered the top of the top in teacher training, are being offered an additional $5,000 bonus. The hope is that they would stay or move to high-need schools. The bonus could encourage teachers already in the school to pursue certification as well.
One hundred fifty-one teachers earned this additional $5,000 bonus in 2020-21 school year.
Becoming a national board-certified teacher is no easy feat. It has been described as a bar exam for teachers. To be certified, it takes anywhere from one to three years to complete. It costs just under $2,000. Scholarships are available for qualified applicants.
According to federal data, one-third of Alabama kindergartners and nearly 40% of first through third graders were identified with a reading deficiency, and about 8% of all K-3 students demonstrated characteristics of dyslexia in 2021.
The state is also looking closely at early literacy assessments this year. About two in three entering kindergartners are actually ready for school in 2021. About 45% fail to meet math benchmarks, according to an AlaKiDS assessment tool, and about 18% fail to meet literacy, physical and social-emotional benchmarks, according to the report.
The research shows that students who are taught by teachers with national board certification learn more in the course of a school year. The benefit is even greater for minority and low-income students.
AL.com’s Education Lab reported that National Board Certified Teachers are not evenly spread throughout the state. Targeted schools are those in which more than 75% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, have been on the list of “failing” schools for three of the last five years, or have a graduation rate of more than 10 percentage points lower than the statewide graduation rate. Fifteen Alabama school districts don’t have a single National Board Certified Teacher in any of their schools.
Niyiere Joseph, a Special Education at Liberty Middle School in Madison recently gained her National Board Certification. When asked about the process and changes to her teaching, she replied,
" The entire process made me more reflective as a teacher. It forced me to look beyond the curriculum that we are often inundated with and made me understand the true goal of teaching: creating lifelong learners and teaching them how to also be reflective both as a student and a member of the various learning communities they would be affiliated with over the years. The National Board shifted my mindset from how I teach to why I teach. It empowered me to plan and deliver meaningful instruction and assessments that allowed students to demonstrate not just what they learn, but how they learn, not only deepening their content knowledge, but also helping them set their own lifelong learning habits and goals. I would encourage any teacher that has been in the profession for a while to pursue Board Certification, but only if you really want to know and improve where you stand as an educator. It will challenge you to grow; it will challenge you to unlearn and relearn, as well as unteach and reteach. It certainly changed my mindset about the profession of teaching. It changed my “good” to better. May we all desire to be better. Our students deserve the very best version of ourselves."
Did you read that? "Our students deserve the very best version of ourselves." We need more teachers putting the students first in whatever situation we find ourselves in.