Soon more American teachers may be studying to make the grade: The trial round of national testing to certify teachers was recently completed, certifying 81 of 289 teacher applicants.

The culmination of a seven-year effort by the Detroit-based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the test is aimed at professionalizing teaching, rewarding experienced teachers, and raising the quality of teaching in the United States. The voluntary test will soon become available nationwide. NBPTS plans to develop tests in 30 subjects in the next five years.

Though more than two-thirds of the first round of applicants did not gain certification, the National Board says that they are not necessarily bad teachers. ``You can't generalize about this pool,'' says NBPTS spokeswoman Joanne Kogan Krell. ``[The test] is meant to be really, really rigorous.... This is about really highly accomplished teaching.''

Applicants who complete the process earn National Board certification either in a specific subject - such as language arts - or in a ``generalist'' category for a specific age group such as ``early adolescence.'' Teachers become eligible to take the test after three years teaching in either a public or state-recognized private school.

The test consists of two parts: a portfolio prepared by the teacher demonstrating his or her teaching practice and a one- to two-day assessment by peers at a site chosen by the National Board. The portfolio includes examples of students' work, videos of the classroom, lesson plans, and essays written by the teacher.

Many states have adopted or are developing legislation relating to National Board certification. For example, Mississippi teachers who become certified will receive a $3,000 raise. Other states' legislation include credit toward professional-development requirements for certified teachers and paid time off for preparation.

The US Department of Education provided research-and-development matching funds to NBPTS, founded in 1987 as a nonprofit, independent outgrowth of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. National Board certification has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the National School Board Association.

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