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  1. Gradebook

Once a leader, Florida lags nation in new National Board certified teachers

The Best and Brightest teacher bonus has largely replaced the program.

Florida has four new National Board certified teachers this year.

That ranks it tied for 41st nationally, alongside Ohio and New Jersey. Only New Hampshire, Nebraska and Connecticut had fewer.

What makes this number, reported this week by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, remarkable is that not too long ago, Florida led the nation in certifications. At its peak, Florida had 1,809 newly certified teachers in a year.

Educators and policy makers viewed the arduous, self-reflective process to gain the recognition as a solid marker of mastering the craft of classroom instruction.

Don't believe it? Just look at the total numbers of National Board teachers, who hold the credential for a decade. Florida is second on that list, with 13,551 educators still recognized by the program.

The tide turned dramatically after Florida stopped subsidizing the application process for certification, and ended the bonuses that went with it.  Some officials contended the investment didn't yield enough proven benefits.

Lawmakers later funneled millions of dollars  — a similar amount, actually — into the new "Best and Brightest" bonus program, which is based on teacher evaluations (including student test results) and their college entry exam scores.

Many teachers criticized the change, arguing the National Board model focuses on strong teaching performance rather than scores. The Legislature has made minor adjustments to the system, but held true to the notion that student results are key to knowing whether a teacher is successful.

Even while knocking the program, teachers didn't turn down the money. The program has grown, and is expected to do so, while National Board certification has become an asterisk for many Florida educators.

Related coverage: Few Florida teachers seeking advanced certification that now nets no bonus