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Florida lags again in new National Board teacher certification

The state still has more teachers in the program than all states except North Carolina.

It’s that time of year again when the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announces how many teachers across the country have completed its arduous, self-reflective process for certification.

Florida no longer leads the nation in the system it once considered so prestigious.

This year, the Sunshine State had four teachers newly earn the certification. Four.

That’s 42nd in the nation and the same number as in 2018. Sixty-six Florida educators also renewed their certification, which lasts for 10 years.

This downward trend is not surprising in any way.

Once upon a time, Florida held the system of helping dedicated educators improve upon their profession in high regard. At its peak, Florida had nearly 2,000 teachers go through the hours-long system to gain the recognition.

Because of its past popularity, the state still ranks second behind only North Carolina in the total number of certified teachers, with 13,552. Four Florida counties — Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Palm Beach — stand among the top 10 in terms of the largest numbers of teachers with current National Board credentials.

Teachers participated because they considered the program valuable in improving their classroom skills. But they also did so because the state paid a premium for the certification.

The number dropped off in 2015 after lawmakers decided that National Board certification had no direct connection to students’ success, and they eliminated the funding.

Instead, they relied more heavily on bonuses attached to measures such as the controversial value-added score, or the equally contentious teacher college entrance exam.

Teachers repeatedly have called on the state to end the bonus structure, which many consider a “scheme,” and return to rewarding teachers for something that more directly measures their classroom performance and skills.

Such requests so far have fallen on deaf ears.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and key lawmakers continue to propose millions of dollars in bonus money along with added funds to improve minimum teacher salaries.

A key question remains whether anything will emerge for the veteran teachers who already earn more than the minimum, and who benefited most from the financial reward for improving their craft through initiatives such as National Board certification.