Julia McDill had decided not to pursue her master’s degree.
The seven-year veteran Franklin Elementary School teacher has been in student loan debt ever since she graduated from the University of Mississippi for Women with a Bachelor of Elementary Education.
Adding to this debt was simply not feasible.
Likewise, McDill had considered getting her certification from the National Council, which would both increase her salary in the long run and provide her with the intensive and thoughtful teacher training that the name of the program entails. But again, enrolling in this program usually requires an expensive initial investment of $ 3,000 to $ 4,000 on the part of the teacher. It was not possible for her.
The Columbus Municipal School District is using Emergency Relief Fund for Elementary and Secondary Schools (ESSERs) from the COVID-19 pandemic to pay the cost of teachers seeking National Council certification over the next three years. McDill, a fourth-grade math teacher, is one of the district’s first 27 teachers to accept the offer.
“When the district offered this opportunity, I jumped at the chance,” McDill said. “It will help me hone my skills and hone my craft. “
This will also add $ 6,000 to her annual salary once she completes the certification process.
CMSD partners with Mississippi State University’s World Class Teacher program to provide the professional development associated with National Board certification. The process takes between a year and 18 months, said CMSD Superintendent Cherie Labat, and trains / assesses teachers in four key areas: content knowledge, differentiation in teaching, teaching practice and teaching practice. learning environment, and effective and reflective practices.
“It helps teachers constantly find strengths and weaknesses in their own teaching,” Labat said. “… I also feel that their professional development throughout the process will benefit us in improving teaching and student success.” “
Today, the CMSD has only four teachers certified by the National Board. Labat said the district hopes the incentive will add 100 to that total over three years – more than 40 percent of teachers in the district.
By comparison, only 13.7% of teachers in Mississippi public school districts were certified by the National Board in 2019, the fourth highest percentage in the country.
“I know from experience working in other districts, if you even have 10 percent of your teachers certified by the National Council, it makes a huge difference,” Labat said.
Labat also cited studies that show that Mississippi kindergarten students taught by a National Board-certified teacher are 31% more likely to achieve a proficiency score on benchmark reading exams. Third-graders are 11% more likely to pass the English and Language Arts exam.
Beyond that, the CMSD National Council initiative can also help recruit and retain teachers, Labat said. To qualify for training, a teacher needs a minimum of three years of experience. Currently, the district employs 87 teachers with less than three years of experience, and a growing number of teachers nationwide are leaving the field before reaching the three-year mark.
Not only will the incentive keep experienced teachers in the district, Labat said, but it will also place 40 percent of its teaching staff in mentoring positions that could also keep younger and less experienced teachers in the district.
“Sometimes you have a win-win situation,” Labat said. “It’s a win-win, especially since we can leverage our ESSER dollars to make it happen. … When you look at the learning loss over the past year and a half (due to COVID-19), if you don’t invest in the quality of education to improve student outcomes and close the gap success, so what are you spending your money on? “
For McDill, working with children has always been fun. She thought elementary education was what she was meant to do, and teaching over the years has confirmed that.
But in addition to her fourth grade math classes, she also conducts math interventions with fourth and fifth grade students. The National Council process, she said, will particularly help her to better differentiate teaching between different levels of learning.
Labat hopes this kind of “reflective” attitude is contagious and encourages more teachers to ask for the incentive.
“If you have years of experience, this is an open application process,” she said. “Anyone who meets these criteria and wants to learn and improve student outcomes, let’s go. “
Zack Plair is the editor of The Dispatch.