Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Law of Unintended Consequences: NCBTs


"Summit to address where top teachers would be best used" by Diette Courrege, in the Lowcountry & State section.

This report in the Newsless Courier this morning set me to thinking about the policy of South Carolina in regard to paying bonuses to teachers who gain National Board Certification. The article concerns a meeting in Columbia sponsored by the NEA (that's National Education Association), bringing together SC National Board Certified teachers to discuss "the best ways to get more accomplished teachers into schools struggling with high teacher turnover and poor student achievement."
South Carolina's policy provides yet another example of the law of unintended consequences--that is, a policy that attempts to engineer one outcome but results in another. Hoping to improve schools overall, the state legislature is now unwittingly moving state resources out of low-performing into high-performing schools. To put that another way, them that has, gets.

How so? Let's start with the following questions:

  1. What IS NBC (apart from well-known broadcasting network)? A certification process about 20 years old that addresses the perhaps less-than-stellar outcomes for potential teachers graduating from our nation's (and, yes, our state's) schools of education. It requires two years of substantial effort to complete the required portfolio and complete the vetting process. One has to wonder why this two-year effort should not be part of getting certified in the first place, but, oh well.
  2. What would entice hard-working, underpaid teachers to complete this time-consuming process? Clearly, several years ago the South Carolina State Assembly asked this very question, having decided that NBCT's would improve SCs abysmal educational standards, not an unreasonable opinion. The answer it proposed and passed, at least for today's teachers, is $7,500 per year over a period of ten years (that's $75,000 for those of you who need a calculator to multiply) PLUS loans to pay for the process that are forgiven when the candidate completes the process favorably.
  3. Why does South Carolina rank third in the nation in NBCTs when it ranks fifty-first in graduation rates? Did you read the answer to # 2? For younger teachers, especially, $7500 per year means a rise in yearly income by 30 percent or more! Who wouldn't go for that?
  4. So, how is the consequence "unintended"? That's easy. Where do these NBCTs teach? Did the State Assembly attach any strings to its program of rewards for hard work? NO. Most of these teachers continued to work at the school from which they came if the school was a good environment to teach in, and those who now had a "ticket" out of bad environments bailed to good ones. Who could blame them? That means that state resources are moving from"high-needs" schools (I'm using the latest jargon here) and sent to high-performing schools once again, thanks to this brilliant strategy that probably originated with our state department of education.
  5. Why don't we get a breakdown of NCBTs by school? It would be too embarrassing for CCSD to publish. I mean, what if it shows that 50 percent of Wando High School's faculty is board-certified compared to one percent of Burke's? (I'm making these figures up, of course, although they might be not far from the truth.)
  6. Why does the NEA's associate director of teacher quality think that "strings" requiring NBCTs to teach in "high-needs" schools are '''stupid policies'"? Umm, pandering to her constituency, perhaps? Carmon says that what Georgia did on this very question--"tying the supplement ... to a requirement to teach in high-needs schools" won't work. SHE says "money is not the trigger" to get good teachers into those schools. Really? What's her evidence?
  7. Why do a few NBCTs remain in the poor schools they were teaching in before? Actually, those are the saints, such as Barbara Hairfield, who was the ONLY NCBT at Alice Birney Middle School (maybe my statistics aren't off so much in # 5 above after all!) and is now (God bless her!) at Brentwood Middle School, which probably is the most difficult school for teachers in CCSD.
  8. And, the $64 question: Why is the NEA holding these "summits" (six counting South Carolina's) now? Ms. Carmon tips the careful reader off to that one! It seems that Georgia has just changed its policy in order to get more NBCTs into "high-needs" schools--in fact, every teacher certified after July 2006 must teach in one of these schools in order to get the 10 per cent salary supplement. The handwriting is on the wall.
  9. That's right--South Carolina is soooo much wealthier than Georgia that each NBCT gets $7500 regardless of salary. In order for a teacher in Georgia to get that much she would need a base salary of $75,000! Not too many of those, I suspect.
  10. Can we use some common sense here? The local school districts need to plan to encourage teams of NBCTs to teach and mentor at low-performing schools.

We don't need a summit to figure that one out! CCSD, that's PLANNING ...

1 comment:

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said...

Enjoyed reading your post on the SC NBCT Summit.
I have posted several on this topic as well over on my blog at


http://21stcenturylearning.typepad.com/blog/