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Mississippi Eyes National Board-Certified Talent for High-Needs Districts

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has signed legislation creating a pilot program to give $4,000 annual stipends to National Board Certified Teachers who work in one of 13 high-need counties—that's in addition to $6,000 stipends all Mississippi board-certified teachers already receive.

The law, written by the chair of the state's House education committee and championed by both state education chairs, is an attempt to improve teacher quality in some of the state's hardest-to-staff districts.

"The intent of this legislation is to attract more NBCTs into underserved schools with few to no NBCTs, and to encourage more teachers in these underserved areas to pursue National Board Certification. I believe higher numbers of NBCTs will improve student achievement," said state senator Grey Tollison, chairman of the Senate education committee, according to a press release by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which administers the NBCT program. 

To become board-certified, teachers must submit evidence and pass exams to prove that they've mastered the requisite content knowledge and pedagogical techniques.

According to a July 2015 study done by the Board, 25 states offer financial incentives to become board-certified. Mississippi will now have one of the most generous policies in the country, matching the incentives offered in Washington state and Hawaii.

Those policies haven't been universally popular. As my colleague Liana Heitin reported back in 2011, the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education found that fewer than 1 percent of board-certified teachers moved to high-needs districts to take advantage of the additional cash. And in general, it's difficult to convince top teachers to move to low-performing schools even with a lot of money on the table, according to other research. 

Currently just about one in eight Mississippi teachers are board certified. The bill also makes it easier for more teachers to attain national board certification by changing the methods by which teachers can be reimbursed for the expenses incurred during the process. 

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