EdNewsParent Backgrounder: National Board Certified Teachers

You might be surprised to learn that little ol’ Telluride and Custer County – along with the experientially-oriented Expeditionary schools in Denver – have among the highest rates of National Board Certified teachers in the state. (See data table below)

Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve National Board Certification have met rigorous standards through intensive study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.

Teachers who go through the process say it’s among the best professional development they’ve had. Some studies show that the skills these teachers gain spread throughout the staff and positively impact teaching and learning in the teacher’s home school, although, other studies aren’t conclusive on this point.

One thing is certain, though, state funding for certification scholarships or stipends teachers can earn by completing the rigorous certification process are at risk due to the state’s precarious budget situation.

Over the summer, the state Department of Education announced that 381 National Board Certified Teachers in Colorado picked up $704,883 in teaching stipends. The average award was $1,480, plus an additional $3,200 if a teacher worked at a low-performing school. The stipends were created through House Bill 08-1384 during the 2007 legislative session to “advance the quality of teaching and learning by maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.”

Last year, federal stimulus dollars were tapped to prop up the program. Unless a new funding source materializes, the stipend program could be scrapped in 2011 – along with state scholarships that help teachers pay the $2,500 cost of certification.

Some districts, such as Custer, offer salary incentives to the tune of a 5 percent increase to a teacher’s base salary. New Mexico’s nationally board certified teachers earn an additional $5,800 per year for a decade. Wyoming pays $4,000 annual stipends for 10 years. That’s in addition to possible salary increases offered by districts.

So, as Colorado turns its focus toward other measures aimed at improving teacher quality, money is drying up for a program that some experts say is already having the desired result of raising the bar for teachers.