“The gold medal of the teaching world.” That’s how one Virginia teacher was quoted describing her certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in a recent Washington Post article. Recognition and praise from both peers and parents followed her success, the article said, as well as career opportunities not previously available.
Achieving national board certification is no simple task for teachers. First, there’s the $2,300 fee, followed a rigorous performance-based assessment that can take from one to three years to complete. Candidates must compose portfolios of their work over a full school-year, which the NBPTS states should show “direct evidence of some aspect of the teacher’s work and an analytical reflective commentary on that evidence.” Candidates are also required to submit videotapes of their instruction and pass a one-day exam covering subject-matter knowledge and teaching methods. The program is open only to teachers with bachelors degrees and three years of classroom experience. Once earned, the advanced certification is valid for ten years.
But all that effort has some pay-offs. For many teachers, board certification brings with it an increase in salary, annual bonuses, and a validation of teaching techniques. Data from the Education Week Research Center’s Education Counts database show that in 2005, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia provided financial incentives for teachers to earn board certification, while hundreds of school districts also provide their own incentives. Forty-nine states also gave licensure incentives--e.g., license portability, license renewal, or continuing education credit--to teachers who earned board certification.
Still, the national certification is not without its critics. Since its creation in 1987, some scholars and policymakers have questioned whether the NBPTS deserves the financial and professional recognition it has gotten. They have voiced skepticism that the credential is ultimately making a big enough difference where it matters--in the classroom.
However, a string of recent regional studies has suggested that NBPTS process does succeed in identifying better teachers. In test-score analyses in North Carolina, Arizona, and Miami, Fla., researchers found that board-certified teachers had a positive effect on student achievement. In an interview with Education Week, Linda C. Cavalluzzo, the author and chief investigator of the Miami study, called NBPTS certification a “nice, new important signal” that officials can use to identify and reward successful teachers.