Only 26 La. teachers gained national certification in 2013, down significantly

Only 26 achieve it; national level falls

Continuing a long decline, only 26 Louisiana teachers achieved certification in 2013 from a well-regarded national teaching organization, a fraction as many as when the program was at its peak in this state.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced the results Tuesday. The teachers learned their individual results last month.

Louisiana’s latest results are one-sixth of what they were as recently as 2010, when 148 teachers earned the certification. At its peak in 2005, some 250 Louisiana teachers earned the distinction.

Nationally, the trend is similar. A total of 4,117 teachers achieved National Board certification in 2013, less than half as many as earned it in 2010.

The National Board certification is considered a high honor among teachers.

Teachers have to demonstrate to their peers through videotaped lessons, student work, reflection papers and an exam that they know what they’re doing.

Only about half of the teachers get the certification on the first try. They have two more years to get across the finish line.

Besides prestige, national board certification comes with higher pay for at least 10 years, though it’s not as lucrative as it used to be.

In response to the economic downturn, many states, including Louisiana, have cut back their support for the program.

An Education Week survey in 2012 found the number of states offering a stipend for the certification declined from 39 to 24, which included Louisiana.

While Louisiana ranks 16th nationally in the number of teachers who are board-certified, the ranking for newly board certified teachers has fallen to 28th. North Carolina, where the program originated, has the most certified teachers of any state in the country.

A spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Education, Barry Landry, said the state’s teacher evaluation process, known as COMPASS, is influenced in part by the National Board.

“Building on the previous successes of the National Board process, every district in our state now evaluates classroom teachers as true professionals and has adopted rewards for highly effective teachers,” Landry said. “We thank our National Board-certified teachers for showing our state a path to treating educators as true professionals.”

In 2010, Louisiana quit paying its annual $5,000 stipend, instead shifting that expense to school districts. In 2008, a dozen school districts offered complementary annual stipends, ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, to national board-certified teachers. Almost all of those added stipends have been severely cut back or are gone now.

Of the 26 new National Board-certified teachers in Louisiana, East Baton Rouge Parish has five, the most of any district but down substantially from past years. East Baton Rouge Parish and a few other districts used to cover the $2,500 application fee.

The National Board is launching a campaign to persuade teachers whose certification is expiring, about 180 in Louisiana, to renew their certifications as well as revive interest in the program.

“Investing professional development dollars for teachers to become certified and to maintain their certification would be an important investment for Louisiana to make,” said Michelle Accardi, director of state policy and research for the organization.