Saturday, Jan. 27 dawned wet, dreary and chilly across  Alabama.  The prefect morning to roll over and sleep in.

But 500 teachers and one sleepy-eyed blogger converged on Homewood middle school in the Birmingham suburbs for a gathering of the Alabama National Board Certified Teachers Network.  We came from every corner of the state to network, to learn from dozens of breakout sessions.  And perhaps most importantly, to recharge batteries by interacting with others who are also passionate about their profession.

It is not easy to become a national board certified teacher.  It is usually a multi-year process of intense study and testing.  You can’t go on-line and buy this certification for $25 and a box of cracker jacks.  You make a real commitment of time and energy.  You are definitely challenged.

So why do it?

A decade of research shows that students of board certified teachers learn more.  This is especially true for minority and low-income students.  Teachers become better teachers.  (We all want to get  better.  That’s why I spent thousands of dollars on golf lessons, videos, new golf equipment, etc.  Don’t ask me how well it worked.)  This is especially true of dedicated teachers.

There is also research showing having board certified teachers in a school improves the climate relating to morale and retention.

Probably the most impressive part of Saturday’s event was watching the “pinning” of most of the brand new 161 board certified teachers as they filed across the stage.  There are now more than 2,000 board certified teachers in Alabama.

The entire program is driven by the simple question, “What should teachers know and be able to do?”

As we know far too well, public schools and those who work in them are frequent whipping boys.  We seem to delight in conjuring up whatever bad news we can conjure up about education.  The release last week of the annual “failing” schools list and the release next week of A-F school report cards being exhibit A and B.

Too bad some of those who are first to scream about our shortcomings were not with me in Homewood.