Originally created 05/24/04

Teachers question proposal to send top teachers to poor schools



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A recommendation by a University of South Carolina professor to require nationally certified teachers to work in poor or rural schools sounds like a bad idea to some South Carolina teachers.

In a report released last week about racial disparities in South Carolina, researcher Thomas E. Thompson wrote that new national certified teachers should be required to spend five years in a "high-poverty, high-need school."

"If they represent the best and brightest, their talent should be put to use in helping to solve our problems in greatest-need districts or greatest-need situations," Thompson said after the release of the report.

About 3,225 teachers in South Carolina hold the credential known as national board certification, ranking the state third behind North Carolina and Florida in the number of teachers with the distinction.

Some said requiring nationally certified teachers to teach in disadvantaged schools could discourage educators from seeking national certification.

Laura Trippe, media specialist at Anderson Mill Elementary School in Moore, said she would probably not have gone through the certification process had it meant relocating. Even working at a different school locally would be a deal-breaker, she said, "if I was not 100 percent guaranteed I'd have the same job back."

Simply being nationally certified doesn't mean a teacher will be able to work with every student, said Louise Grant, a national certified teacher at Irmo High School.

"They should get teachers who have been proven to increase the test scores of low-achieving kids and put them in," Grant said. "There's a lot more to being an effective teacher than a high degree of content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and interpersonal skills."

The Legislature provides national certified teachers a $7,500 bonus annually for up to 10 years, and some school districts give an additional stipend worth as much as $5,500 a year. Researcher Thompson recommends the state consider increasing an annual bonus to pay national certified teachers who relocate.

But Columbia teacher Angela Cooper said more money won't make the relocating appealing to many teachers.

"I don't think that's feasible at all, even with the bonus pay," said Cooper, a national certified teacher at Taylor Elementary School and a finalist for 2005 state Teacher of the Year. "I don't think you will find many people willing to support that.

"It's not off-kilter to suggest that. But let it be a suggestion. Don't mandate that people should do that," she said.

At least three states provide incentive pay for qualified national certified teachers who volunteer to work in low-rated schools, according to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit that grants national board certification. South Carolina also offers an incentive program for teachers who volunteer to work in low-performing schools, but those educators don't need national certification to qualify.

David Lussier, an adviser to the president of the National Board for Professional Teacher Standards, said a relocation requirement could create friction between teachers and supervisors who think their highly qualified teachers might soon leave.

"We would support this as an option, but not as a requirement," Lussier said.