State should keep promise to teachers

Our state legislators are considering Gov. Sonny Perdue’s proposal to abolish state law that says a National Board Certified Teacher “shall receive not less than a 10 percent rate increase in state salary for each year he or she holds national certification.”

Although Gov. Perdue contends there is no research to tie National Board Certification with student achievement, there are numerous studies to show the number one factor that impacts student achievement is teacher quality. The rigorous process of attaining National Board Certification is only awarded to teachers who prove themselves to be highly effective and qualified.

As a recently certified National Board certified teacher, I serve a Title I middle school population of economically disadvantaged, special needs and second language learner backgrounds. The outcome of my efforts to attain National Board Certification has been the increased training and capacity to impact underachieving students’ performance measurably. Last year my classes showed an 89 percent pass rate on the 2008 CRCT in Language Arts/Reading.

My school has five National Board Certified teachers. We are among the hardest working, most student-focused professionals. We collaborate with and are among those who serve on our School Improvement Committee, volunteer to teach in our Saturday school program, after-school program and boot camp (focusing high-risk learners) and spend untold hours as curriculum designers.

A measurable proof of progress is the fact that our school passed AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) in 2008 for the first time in nine years.

The NBCT pay is awarded only to teachers who are serving in Title I schools. Our lawmakers must see the importance of keeping them there. The compensation is the closest thing we have to merit pay and is well deserved.

To keep our best teachers in the highest need schools, they must be compensated. Furthermore, we undertook the certification process with the state’s promise of the 10 percent pay incentive. To take that away after the work has been completed will be a step backward for the education of Georgia students. Little more than $12 million can rightfully meet this obligation statewide.

If our legislators weigh the cost of honoring the state’s promise to these highly effective teachers against the negative results from taking back that promise, they must see that paying certified teachers what they have proved they are worth is the most prudent move to take, even in hard times.

Virginia Van Gelderen, M.Ed., NBPTS, Reading, Language Arts and ELL, teaches in Hall County.