NBC for All

I am not sure yet what I think about this idea–expecting National Board Certification for all of the teachers in America. It costs almost $3000 these days to make one’s way through the year-long process. I found this blog post yesterday by John Wilson, former Executive Director of NEA. I have very much wanted to become board-certified. When it first appeared back in 1998, I could not enter the process because I had no classroom group. Meeting regularly witrh a class group was a basic requirement. At that time I was a “teacher-on-special-assignment,” working along with thirty other teachers on a five-year science project to redesign the science curriculum and pedagogy for K-5 schools in Delaware. When I went back to the classroom in 2002, I realized that there was no certification for middle school science–just middle-school generalist. So, I waited for the more specialized science certificate. By the time that rolled around, I was president of the second largest teachers’ union local  in the state. My plate was full. No time to dedicate to the tremendous task required for board certification.  Oh, well.

June 18, 2012

National Board Certification for All Teachers

Last week, I attended a special celebration on Capitol Hill to recognize the 25th anniversary of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the independent board that certifies accomplished teachers in the United States. Yes, it has been 25 years since the board was created in 1987 by the Carnegie Foundation. This longevity is a testament to thoughtful, research-based reform that respects teachers and challenges them with high expectations.

It was inspiring to see and hear the architects and champions for this gift to the teaching profession. Former North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, Founding Chair of the National Board, was passionate about the power of an accomplished teacher to change the lives of students. Gov. Hunt served on the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, the group that recommended the creation of the NBPTS. Former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, a Republican, was also part of that task force. Their bi-partisan leadership, along with that of task force chair Lewis Branscomb, launched the process in such a manner that the Board and its work through the years has risen above partisan politics. Former Secretary of Education Dick Riley told the group that the investment by the federal government was one of the most transformative education reforms to date, but he also noted that there was more work to do.

Secretary Riley talked eloquently about President Clinton’s support for National Board Certification. Other political leaders in the 25-year history of the NBPTS have included a host of congressional and gubernatorial champions from both parties–including GOP supporters like U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, former U.S. Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, and former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot. Democratic supporters have included former governors like Roy Barnes of Georgia and Bob Wise of West Virginia.

Jim Kelly, the Founding President and CEO, said to me that the first goal of the Board, one encouraged by the original National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, was to certify 100,000 teachers, creating a critical mass of great teachers who are able to pass a rigorous assessment. That has been accomplished. From the speakers, especially the new CEO Ron Thorpe, I ascertained that a greater vision was emerging that would change the teaching profession in America forever. That vision is to make National Board Certification an expectation for those who teach in our schools.

Can you imagine National Board Certification being expected for teachers who are interviewing to teach in our schools, particularly in our high poverty schools? By the way, currently, 55% of Board Certified Teachers work in Title I schools. Can you imagine parents asking teachers during Open House if they are Board Certified? Can you imagine teachers displaying framed National Board certificates on the walls of their classrooms? And just imagine every teacher in America designating after her or his name the letters NBCT…National Board Certified Teacher.

We only have to look to the medical profession to know that this vision can be accomplished. The Carnegie Foundation in 1910 published the Flexner Report, written by Abraham Flexner. The report transformed the way doctors were trained and led to the closure of many medical schools unable to prepare doctors to the level of new medical standards. (We could stand to close a few teacher education schools.) Flexner’s work was the framework for board certification for doctors and later for specialized certification. Would you go to a doctor who was not board certified?

Can we do this tomorrow? No, but we can set the vision today. We can develop the strategies for making teaching a true profession in our society. We can unite the voices of teachers and advance this vision through unions, education reform movements, government, and parent groups to create the pathway to this higher standard. We can assess the current process for advanced certification and make the changes that are relevant to today’s teaching demands. We can research, incubate new ideas, and learn from other professions.

The National Board has never been more ready to make this new vision a reality. The time has never been better with supply and demand being on our side. Ron Thorpe is a leader who has the talent, skills, and savvy to bring the forces together to do the heavy lifting. Secretary Duncan and President Obama have the bully pulpit to unite the nation to support great teachers in every school. The philanthropic world should want to invest in proven transformational change in the teaching profession. The unions can lead their members to an understanding that elevating the profession is an investment in themselves and their future. The business community can embrace a tested process that can withstand the pressures of time and, with their support, can be brought to scale. Legislators and school board members can lead through laws, policies, and funds that will extend this vision to every classroom.

We can and must do this. If not now, when?




This entry was posted in Accountability, Education Professionals, Professional Development, Quality Teachers/Quality Teaching, School Improvement, Teachers and Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to NBC for All

  1. A Delaware Teacher says:

    Interesting. My wife is Board Certified. I am a teacher as well, but I chose not to pursue the certification. I was very proud of her when she was recognized by the school board. I thought it was great that she would receive higher pay for some years to come. Now that those years are ending, I guess it is nice that she has the certification.

    But is it truly necessary? Part of being a teacher is learning how to be reflective. I have a Masters degree. (So does my wife.) Do I now need another piece of paper to prove that I am a worthy teacher? Sometimes I wonder why we as teachers need to keep jumping through hoops to keep our jobs. I know I am not done becoming a better teacher, but it sure would be nice if I felt like I was the one making that decision. Maybe others know better.

  2. fsjenner says:

    It is, of course, the certificate. But the process is the meaningful part of NBC. It goes beyond just being personally and informally reflective. Are you aware that some school districts–Red Clay is one–will pay the fee for the NBC–almost $3000 at this point in time. And, will give teachers who are successful a $1000 bonus upon completion. It is part of their RTT plan, so it will not last forever. AND, there is always the chance that the state may come back with the long-term bonus for NBC awardees. It has been part of DSEA’s legislative agenda every year since it went away due to the budget shortfall.

  3. Ancora Imparo says:

    I agree the process was valuable. I, too, am certified and recertified. I was lucky to have a small cohort in which to work and open to reflection of myself and progress. Very often as educators we don’t get the time to reflect and vet out the process. This process was a true plc. I was so disappointed in DE for abandoning this area…and see nbc as a wider return investment than other fiscal choices. Good for Red Clay using Rttt $ in way that invests. Not all districtd did this. I found nbc invaluable, not for paper but I evolved in what I do.

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