The Georgia Association of Educators has a long tradition of working to strengthen professional development for educators. Strengthening the certification process is one way to provide better professional development. The legislative priorities for GAE include certification enhancement such as improving national certification and implementing the Professional Educator Tier System.
GAE began several years ago to advocate for professional teaching salary advancement opportunities to encourage teachers to remain in the classroom. The PSC has begun to explore this process and the method for implementation. This method of tiered certification and advanced professionalism has been successful in several states and has been suggested as policy in many more. Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, California, and New Mexico have all implemented various forms of a tiered certification system. Maryland and Idaho have been moving toward implementation by creating reform commissions to study the need for such a system and the process for instituting it. Both groups have made recommendations that a tiered system be adopted by their states.
This type of certification provides a method for teachers to advance in their profession without leaving the classroom. GAE has recommended that a system be adopted that provides six levels of certification:
Level one would be for ESP who are required to obtain certification of any kind (bus drivers, paraprofessionals, etc.);
Level two is a Teacher during the first two to five years of initial certification;
Level three is the Accomplished Teacher status which can be achieved after the first two years of experience and completion of state standards;
Level four is a Mentor Teacher who has increased responsibilities in the school system including serving as a mentor to new teachers;
Level five is a Master Teacher who has achieved the standards prescribed by the state that may include National Board Certification; and
Level six is an Administrator level that ensures anyone who becomes an administrator has achieved a high level of state standards.
Each of these levels is achieved with experience, professional development, and increased responsibility or participation in the school or school system. Each level also comes with a salary incentive and the ability to advance one’s teaching career while remaining a classroom teacher.
Each of the states adopting similar systems has realized the necessity for a strong induction or mentoring program for new teachers in order to make the entire system and profession strong. GAE will continue to advocate for a meaningful mentoring program for our new teachers that will enhance the professional tiered certification system and the ability of Georgia to attract and retain high quality educators for our children.
GAE was successful during the 2003 legislative session in getting a bill passed by the House and Senate that would have provided a 10% pay increase for school social workers and counselors who earn national certification. Unfortunately, Governor Perdue vetoed the bill. GAE will continue to advocate on behalf of those education specialists as well as speech pathologists/audiologists and psychologists for this much deserved incentive. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) does not provide certification for these education specialists. It is unfair though not to recognize their accomplishment of earning national certification through other rigorous processes. Achieving national certification is an arduous process that requires dedication, drive, and professionalism. This should be rewarded and encouraged, and GAE will continue to advocate for this well-deserved salary increase for our dedicated education specialists.