Level the playing field

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

By Staff
We will take it, but it could be better.
Although it would be rather nice to be first on the list, North Carolina ranks second this year in the number of public-school teachers who received national certification. That good news was announced by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards on Tuesday. For 12 years in a row, until this year, the Old North State led the nation in the number of teachers who earned national certification. This year, Florida ranks No. 1 in that category.
For the second year in a row, a record was set for the number of new teachers across the nation who received national certification.
The NBPTS announcement did not provide information on how many teachers in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties earned national certification this year. Although the state provides some support to help teachers earn national-certification status, there is no doubt that teachers in the state’s poorer school systems could use some additional assistance.
This year, Wake County ranks second in the nation in the total number of nationally certified teachers with 1,486, followed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg County in the No. 4 spot nationally with 1,211 nationally certified teachers. Their rankings are the same as the ones they held last year.
What we said last year about the national-certification program holds true this year: Poorer school systems have problems with finding enough teachers who meet minimum qualifications. It is not surprising that many school teachers want to work for school systems that pay higher salaries, help them earn national board certifications and have the resources to provide them with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.
The state’s education community and General Assembly, which controls the state’s purse strings, must do something to make the playing field more even when it comes to providing its teachers — no matter if they teach in a rich school system or a poor one — the resources they need to achieve national certifications.
Need further proof there’s a disparity? The top five school systems in the state when it comes to having nationally certified teachers are Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth and Buncombe counties. Those counties are home to the large cities of Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Asheville.
The lack of nationally certified teachers does not mean that Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties do not have quality teachers. Those quality teachers don’t have the same opportunities as their counterparts in Wake or Mecklenburg counties. To be sure, teachers in Beaufort, Hyde, Martin and Washington counties can earn national certification, and they do.
Teaching in poorer, rural counties presents those teachers with conditions not faced by teachers in more affluent areas of the state. A teacher is just as valuable to students in rural Hyde County as a teacher is just as valuable to students in urban Raleigh. Providing extra help to assist teachers in poor counties in their quests to earn national certifications is not treating them differently. It’s treating them fairly. That extra assistance is an investment, not a gift.
Who benefits from such an investment?
North Carolina and its public-school students benefit.