I just spent a glorious day at the Mississippi NBCT Summit on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
The highlight of the summit was a pinning ceremony for many of this year’s Mississippi teachers who achieved Board Certification, which included a husband and wife team!
The summit also featured NBPTS President Ron Thorpe, as well as State Senator Gary Tollison, chair of the MS Senate Education Committee. I was part of a panel that responded to Thorpe’s remarks and offered our own take on the future of teaching in Mississippi.
This was the first time in several years that NBCTs from around the state had been brought together purposefully, and we were all very grateful to Jackie Parker, Director of the World Class Teacher Program (our NB support program) at U of Mississippi for initiating this gathering. WCTP Directors from Mississippi State and University of Southern Mississippi were also on hand, and brought along new NBCTs for the pinning ceremony.
But along with being happy to see each other, and celebrating the newest cohort of highly accomplished teachers, we also took care of some important business and made some sobering observations. One of the most poignant observations was that although Mississippi has one of the highest ratios of NBCTs (about 10% of the teachers in our state are NBCTs), and one of the most generous reimbursement and stipend programs, we also consistently among the lowest performers on many educational measures. In truly highly accomplished fashion, the NBCTs present went beneath the surface to examine the reasons for this seeming contradiction. Among our observations:
a) We do have data at the level of individual schools and districts that the presence of NBCTs has made a measurable difference in student performance.
b) Many of the Mississippi teachers who have achieved National Board certification are no longer in the classroom (despite the generous stipend the state offers those who do stay). Some have left to take on leadership roles in education around our state and the nation; but others have left out of frustration from not being allowed to do the highly accomplished teaching their students deserve.
c) Looking at a map of where NBCTs are working in our schools, we realized that most of the practicing NBCTs are concentrated in a few counties, particularly those closest to the locations of our four WCTP sites. We also noted that there was a tremendously strong correlation between the areas of the state with few or no NBCTs and those with the highest unemployment and poverty rates.
d) We also concluded, sadly, that NBCTs in Mississippi remained a grossly underutilized resource; something those present have vowed to address in various ways.
We left the summit working on developing a stronger network of NBCTs across the state in order to address these and other issues. Any Mississippi NBCTs who were not with us today, please take this as your invitation to get involved. Can start by going to the newly revamped (and constantly improving) National Board website and updating your profile. Watch for email blast from NBPTS with more updates and contact information for our developing state network.