ROCK HILL — The number of South Carolina teachers earning a national certification continues to dwindle, though the state still ranks third nationwide in total certified.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards released data Wednesday showing that 360 South Carolina teachers were newly certified this year. Last year, 498 teachers statewide earned the advanced teaching credential; and 798 did so in 2009.

The decline followed legislative proposals to curtail the incentive pay program. Certified teachers earn a $7,500 bonus annually for 10 years if they applied before July 2010. Those who applied later receive $5,000 a year. The process can take up to three years.

Superintendent Mick Zais recommends closing the incentive program next year to new applicants.

The statewide total of 8,142 teachers continues to trail only North Carolina and Florida.