Education Opinion

All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go?

By David B. Cohen — July 16, 2009 2 min read
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Yes, I know it’s a cliché, but I hear it used to describe National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) from time to time. After achieving certification, many NBCTs would be glad to have additional opportunities to work with the National Board, or to take on additional roles and responsibilities in their schools and districts. And many do. But the interest seems to outpace the opportunity in many places, leaving some certified teachers who want to help lead in their profession feeling “all dressed up with nowhere to go.”

Studies of the National Board certification process show that teachers overwhelmingly find it to be a worthwhile challenge that improves their teaching, so it’s no surprise that many NBCTs are here in part out of an interest in spreading the word and helping other teachers. Carrie Slaughter of San Francisco is one of those teachers. San Francisco Unified School District has seen some significant growth recently in the number of teachers working towards certification, and Carrie travels from school to school to provide support. Angela Reisler of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, is here with at least three of her colleagues. When I met them on Wednesday afternoon they were reviewing the conference program looking in part for sessions that would help them provide support to candidates in their district. Angela’s experience as an assessor might also help candidates. She recalls that as a candidate thinking about the anonymous assessors examining a portfolio, “you have this ominous feeling.” One year after certifying, Angela became an assessor: “I really wanted to see how legit it was, and I was duly impressed.” Noting the training and the quality control used in the process, Angela described a highly professional approach to assessment.

Another option in the future will be an advanced certification for teacher leadership. This new certificate would give certified teachers an additional goal and measure a particular dimension of a teacher’s practice, rather than the breadth found in the teacher certification. Teachers I’ve talked to have mixed opinions on the matter, and I find myself sympathetic to both views. Those who like the idea note that we need to encourage greater teacher leadership throughout the profession, and that we need more classroom teachers to have viable and visible leadership opportunities that don’t force us out of the classroom entirely. Others are disappointed with the idea, suggesting that it diminishes the certification an NBCT has already achieved. After all, leadership is one of the aspects of accomplished teaching already assessed in the certification portfolio.

Before that teacher leadership certificate comes out, however, the National Board has plans to offer a certification for principals. Will this certificate improve the quality of school leadership around the country? By itself, maybe not, but in a school where teachers and the principal are similarly engaged in a process of deep analysis and reflection on practice, joining together in the use of National Board Standards, I would anticipate great results.

While NBPTS attends to these new certifications, other initiatives to keep NBCTs feeling connected and involved are still important. NBCT advocacy at the local, state, and national levels have all been part of NBPTS efforts in recent years, and here at the conference - more on that to follow in another entry.

The opinions expressed in Live From NBPTS are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.