Editorial: Schools still need improvement

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2009

Winston-Salem Journal
North Carolina has once again received high ranking for the number of national-board certified teachers. Teachers have worked hard for this honor. And school systems should work just as hard at putting more board-certified teachers in the poor-performing schools that need their help the most.
Former Gov. Jim Hunt was a leader in the establishment of the national certification process. He and the legislature committed North Carolina to it during the early 1990s. This year, the state was second in the country in the number of public-school teachers earning the certification. The state leads the nation in the total number of certified teachers. And Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools ranked among the top 20 school systems in the nation for that figure, the Journal’s Lisa Boone-Wood recently reported.
Teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards are considered among the best in the business. But the state’s schools, with an average graduation rate of just under 70 percent, are still in need of vast improvement. One way to do that is to put more nationally certified teachers in poor-performing schools. Past studies have shown that most of these teachers are working in North Carolina’s most affluent, best-performing school districts. There have been efforts to change that.
For example, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system gives all teachers salary bonuses to work in equity-plus schools. These are schools with a high number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. But certified teachers aren’t flocking to equity-plus schools in high-enough numbers. The process must be voluntary. Those teachers have earned the right to work where they want. Pushing them into reassignments could lead them to look elsewhere for work ó and hurt the performance of the schools they leave behind.
What’s needed are more policies and programs that encourage teachers who are either at equity-plus schools or bound for them to become nationally certified. When one teacher gets certified at a school, others tend to follow. School systems should do whatever they can to jump-start the process. They should make sure that teachers applying for accreditation are given the time for the program, and they should encourage certified teachers to serve as mentors.
The high number of certified teachers is an honor for North Carolina. But school systems must do all they can to get more of these talented teachers into the schools where they can do the most good.