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Study: Stipends for NBCTs Don't Pay Off

An incentive program aimed at bringing National Board certified teachers to high-poverty schools in Washington state is not working as intended, according to a new report from the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education. The finding comes on the heels of Gov. Christine Gregoire's proposal to suspend the bonuses paid to NBCTs—including the $5,000 they receive for having the certification and the additional $5,000 awarded to NBCTs who teach in "challenging" schools. She projects the cuts would save the state nearly $100 million in the next two years.

Since the incentive program began four years ago, fewer than 1 percent of NBCTs moved from low-poverty to high-poverty schools each year, writes the report's author, Jim Simpkins. That's after a 2006 survey found that 46 percent of NBCTs said they would be "very willing" and 37 percent said they would be "somewhat willing" to go to a higher poverty school with the $10,000 overall bonus in place.

Simpkins also finds that NBCTs in Washington "appear no more likely than other teachers to stay in challenging school assignments." And, he writes, "the proportion of NBCTs teaching in challenging schools is increasing, but only because teachers already in those schools are gaining certification and because the state's challenging schools list has grown each year."

The report concludes that legislators should reconsider funding this program (as they are clearly already doing). But what are your thoughts? Are they overlooking less quantifiable effects of the incentive program? Many teachers who apply to become NBCTs say that process itself is an invaluable professional development tool. And what about the need to repay these teachers for investing the outside-of-school time and, yes, money to get the certification?

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