By Sonny Savoie, School Board member
With tight education budgets in Baton Rouge and throughout Louisiana, it is hard enough to hold on to a teaching job-and even tougher to become a better teacher. But Jill Saia, one of the state’s 1,700 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), has not only challenged herself to meet the highest standards in the teaching profession, she is working with other teachers in some of Baton Rouge’s most challenged schools to improve teaching practices and to transform learning among the district’s most at-risk students. National Board Certified Teacher Susan Benedetto, a St. Charles Parish teacher/librarian, is training Teach For America candidates to work in the Orleans Parish high-need schools.
As a businessman and School Board member from St. Charles Parish, I’ve seen first-hand how teachers like Jill, Susan and many of their NBCT colleagues can change the culture of a school. These teacher leaders frequently mentor new or struggling teachers, contribute to increased faculty collaboration and help students be successful learners-with the goal of becoming future members of Louisiana’s workforce and contributors to our economy.
So, at a time when state budgets are tight and policymakers are expected to do more with less, it is even more important to support committed teachers who seek to improve their teaching practice through National Board Certification. Yet, as the current Louisiana budget stands, no state dollars are designated to pay the stipends for these National Board Certified Teachers-funding that is required by existing state law.
Last year, in a cost-cutting move, the governor vetoed a budget line item that would have provided the salary supplement for Louisiana NBCTs-in effect, transferring the responsibility of paying the stipend to cash-strapped local school districts and creating a patchwork system that seriously compromises the program.
Why should Louisiana taxpayers invest in National Board Certification? Like board-certified doctors and accountants, teachers who achieve National Board Certification have met advanced standards through knowledge of their subject matter, intensive study, expert evaluation, reflective self-assessment and peer review. Most important for students, the impact of National Board Certification on student achievement has been documented by the highly respected National Research Council of the National Academies. At the conclusion of a congressionally mandated three-year study, the National Research Council stated, “The evidence is clear that National Board Certification distinguishes more effective teachers…with respect to student achievement.” Those who question the value of investing in teacher quality should keep in mind that effective teachers are the most important school-level influence on student achievement and learning. The world’s top performing education systems invest heavily in recruiting, developing and supporting their teachers. And most states and many school districts across the country provide salary incentives and support for teachers who pursue and/or achieve this advanced credential.
It’s now time for Louisiana to step up and reinstate the stipend for teachers who successfully seek and achieve National Board Certification. Every Louisiana child deserves access to a great teacher.
In addition to being a school board member from St. Charles Parish, Sonny Savoie is past president of the National School Boards Association. Retired from Chevron/Texaco, he is active in school reform efforts and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.