Under Pressure, NBPTS Releases Full Study
The national organization that grants teachers advanced certification released the text of an unflattering study last week.
Officials of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards decided to post the report by veteran researcher William L. Sanders on the group’s Web site after saying earlier that they intended to stick with an “overview.” The overview, which was largely critical of the study, appeared after the board was pressed to “publish something” by a prominent education blogger.
“Based on the kind of interest that has been expressed and trying to get at concerns that people seem to think we’re hiding or sitting on things, we want to be open and transparent,” said Joseph A. Aguerrebere Jr., the board’s president. “It’s the responsible thing to do.”
The research concluded that nationally certified teachers are for the most part no more effective in producing student academic progress than teachers without the credential. ("Study for NBPTS Raises Questions About Credential," May 17, 2006.)
It is among a dozen studies of board certification’s relationship to student achievement that the group mentions on its Web site, but it uses a far larger data set than most of the others—some 35,000 student records linked to more than 800 teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County school districts in North Carolina. Most of those other studies showed a positive relationship.
The organization has been under increasing pressure to demonstrate that the millions of dollars states and districts spend on bonuses for nationally certified teachers buy the likelihood of greater student learning.
Mr. Aguerrebere said that some news reporters and one of the board’s 53 directors have asked about the full study.
No Legal Obligation
Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-founder and the director of the Washington-based Education Sector, a nonprofit think tank, first raised questions publicly about the research in his Eduwonk blog earlier this month, saying that the NBPTS had apparently been “sitting on” the study because its conclusions were unfavorable.
Board officials have maintained that the study overview was not posted in response to that item, and that their decision to use a summary rather than the full text was in keeping with similar decisions.
“It was not being treated any differently” from other studies, said Mary E. Dilworth, the board’s vice president for research. Several studies of the credential’s value listed on the NBPTS Web site do not include full-text versions of the research.
The national board, which is financed mostly by private and state money, is under no legal obligation to make the research available because it commissioned the study. But it did tout Mr. Sanders’ research in 2002 when the organization praised the Education Commission of the States, a policy clearinghouse serving state education officials, for assembling an independent review panel to examine research by J.E. Stone.
Using the “value added” system of teacher effectiveness Mr. Sanders pioneered in Tennessee, Mr. Stone had concluded from a small sample of Tennessee teachers that those with board certification didn’t do a better job producing student-learning gains.
The blue-ribbon panel called Mr. Stone’s study unsound, while the NBPTS pointed to Mr. Sanders’ forthcoming research.
Mr. Sanders, who manages the value-added center at the private SAS Institute in Cary, N.C., called earlier this month for his full study to be available.
Mr. Rotherham said he welcomed the decision by NBPTS officials.
“It was a bad situation,” he said, “and the way to defuse it was to release the study.”
Vol. 25, Issue 38, Page 5