Sixteen Maine teachers became national board certified in 2007, adding to the existing 102 board-certified teachers in our schools. Educators say there’s a direct link between teachers participating in this voluntary assessment program, the quality of their work in the classroom and the achievements of their students, so more certifications is certainly good news.

In a release announcing Maine teachers’ participation in this program, Department of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron points to a portion of the report that emphasizes “evidence is clear that national board certification distinguishes more effective teachers from less effective teachers with respect to student achievement.”

The board certification is not a test, but a presentation by participating teachers of a portfolio that includes samples of student work, assignments, video and teachers’ self-reported analysis of their classroom technique. In some school districts, like Brewer, Bangor, Madawaska, SAD 3 in the Unity area and SAD 47 in Oakland, teachers are given between one and three days of work off to prepare these portfolios, which can take months to assemble.

In other districts, such as Gorham, Bangor, SAD 22 in Hampden, SAD 43 in Rumford, Westbrook and Cumberland, teachers received partial or full reimbursement for certification application fees. And, in 2006, Gov. Baldacci signed into law an automatic $3,000 annual bump in pay for teachers who earn national board certification. In other districts, teachers automatically advance one step on the pay scale, and others receive additional annual stipends of between $1,000 and $3,000, an acknowledgment of their achievement.

It’s professional development that carries a financial incentive for teachers and pays off for students who learn from better teachers.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards posts the names and districts of every teacher who earns board certification in a searchable online database.

So, we know who Maine’s exceptional teachers are.

But we don’t know who Maine’s worst teachers are because that information is shielded from the public.

That’s a double standard that doesn’t help students and doesn’t protect teachers.

Teachers can be de-certified for not completing enough credits to earn a job-required master’s degree. They can also be de-certified for criminal behavior, such as sexually assaulting a student. The public is not entitled to know the circumstances for any de-certification, so human behavior being what it is, we all think the worst. That’s not fair to teachers, as few as they are, who are de-certified for administrative rather than criminal reasons.

Even basic statistical data on the number of lapsed, suspended or revoked state certifications is not public, but statistical data on the number of teachers who are national board-certified is. That just doesn’t make sense.

If we can know the details of teachers earning national board certification, we ought to be permitted the same access to information for teachers whose state certifications to teach are suspended, revoked or simply lapsed.

Gov. Baldacci sponsored legislation to make public the volume and circumstances of revoked teacher certifications, but the bill failed under intense pressure from unions and lobbyists, so Maine continues to be the only state in this country that does not allow public access to this information.

That not only doesn’t make sense, it’s just plain wrong to provide this shield to a profession that works so closely with our children.

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