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Is Certification the Stamp for Good Teaching?

Does being certified guarantee good teaching? That's the question NPR asked recently, after examining the Halifax County School District in rural North Carolina where only six of 10 students graduate high school, despite 98 percent of the staff being certified.

In North Carolina, licensed teachers must demonstrate that their students are learning, and student test scores play a huge role in determining whether or not to renew a teacher's license every three years.

"Student performance on assessments must be a major component in determining which teachers are effective," said Rebecca Garland, who oversees teacher licensing in the state.

And yet, even with close to a full staff of certified teachers, students in Halifax County continue to struggle.

"I've gotten my [diplomas and teacher licensing] on the wall but that doesn't make me effective," said Phillip Rountree, principal of Northwest High School in Halifax County. "The effectiveness comes from here, right here in the heart. This don't mean a hill of beans."

For Andre Stewart, the chair of the social studies department at Northwest High, "being a good teacher goes far beyond test scores." (Stewart has raised his student's scores each of the three years he's been teaching, which makes him an "effective" teacher in the eyes of the state.)

Certified or not, teachers must still confront the challenge of inspiring their students to work hard.

"Unfortunately, for us in the teaching profession, we don't know whether you're good at it until you actually get into it," says Stewart.

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