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The Legislature is again listing education as a top priority for the coming session. Among key elements of any plan to improve education is teacher retention.

South Carolina, particularly rural districts, continues to have difficulty keeping teachers. Many leave for higher-paying positions in other places – or leave the professional entirely.

But there is some good news for the Legislature and the state: Data released in December by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards indicate that South Carolina remains one of the nation’s leading states for the total number of National Board Certified Teachers.

Seventy-nine educators in the state, representing 30 school districts, recently earned National Board Certification. In addition, 513 NBCTs from 59 school districts renewed their national certificates, bringing South Carolina’s total number of NBCTs to 9,125.

Teachers seeking NBC participate in a two-part process that takes from one to three years to complete. The process requires candidates to reflect on their classroom practices, assess their understanding of subject material and examine their preparation techniques. In addition to preparing a portfolio with recordings of classroom teaching, lesson plans, student work samples and reflective essays, teachers must complete assessment center exercises to prove they have mastered the subjects they teach and also possess the skills to teach them.

“The National Board Certification process is rigorous and provides a framework for deep analysis of all aspects of teaching and learning. For this reason, National Board Certified Teachers often report that the process was the best professional development of their career,” said Dr. Jenna Hallman. Hallman, who is a renewed NBCT, serves as the Assistant Director at the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement.

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While it is possible to achieve certification without support, candidates consistently report that collaboration with other NBCTs and candidates eases the burden of the process. To this end, CERRA has created an infrastructure of support to assist candidates as they move through the certification process.

South Carolina has good reason to assist in every way with certification because the more National Board Certified Teachers in South Carolina, the better the chances the state can keep those teachers in the classroom.

According to a January 2018 study conducted by CERRA, the turnover rates among NBCTs are much lower than those of all teachers in South Carolina. Specifically, the state’s teacher turnover rate for the 2016-17 school year was 7.7 percent, yet the rate was only 1.9 percent for all South Carolina NBCTs.

The people of the state want the best teachers for our schools. National Board Certification is a component of teacher quality. Ensuring that these teachers are competitively paid is up to lawmakers.

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