Teaching Board Says Professional Degree Is Not Requirement

By Ann Bradley — August 02, 1989 7 min read

Oak Brook, Ill--In a major step forward, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has released the guidelines for developing assessments that would enable teachers to become board-certified beginning in 1993.

At a national forum held here July 17-19, board officials said they would create assessments and offer credentials in 29 fields, ranging from early-childhood development to vocational education.

The 64-member board also announced that teachers who have acquired a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, and who have “successfully completed” three years of teaching at one or more elementary or secondary schools, will be eligible for certification.

The controversial decision upset some members of the teacher-education community, who had hoped that graduation from a school of education would be a prerequisite for the board’s credential.

National certification will be voluntary and is seen as complementing, not replacing, state licensure of teachers. Whether some type of continuing professional education will be required of board-certified teachers has yet to be decided.

During the forum, the board also released a detailed philosophical statement of what teachers should know and be able to do that will guide its work. An earlier draft of the statement had been obtained by Education Week. (See Education Week, March 22, 1989.)

Superior teachers, the statement asserts, are committed to students and their learning, know the subjects they teach and how to teach them to students, are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning, think systematically about their practice and learn from experience, and participate in their schools and communities to improve the education of young people.

The 29 certification fields give teachers the choice of becoming credentialed as a “generalist” to work with a particular age group of students, or as a specialist within that age group. For example, a teacher of middle school and early adolescence could become certified as a generalist or in one of four academic subjects. The certificates also overlap to accommodate the various school structures that serve students at similar developmental levels. (See box on this page.)

Teacher Training Rejected

In a decision that generated debate among the more than 250 participants here, the board agreed not to require candidates for certification to have graduated from an accredited program of teacher education.

Designating a professional body such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education as the agent for program standards would have limited certification to graduates of such institutions, the report notes. Moreover, if a controversy arose over accreditation standards, the fledgling board’s credibility could be undermined, it says.

Richard C. Kunkle, executive director of ncate, suggested that the prerequisites were appropriate, based on the board’s mission, but that the board’s logic was flawed.

“It falls down to how mature we are as a profession,” Mr. Kunkle4said. “If we were more mature, we would be linking the training program to national certification.”

Mr. Kunkle and other participants at the national forum, where teacher-training institutions came in for a good deal of criticism, expressed the belief that schools of education would respond to the professional standards set forth by the board.

“It would be anti-professional for the schools of education not to be aiming toward those standards,” Mr. Kunkle said.

Incentives Urged

Although nearly every aspect of the board’s work sparked discussion and debate here, the question of what incentives teachers will have for becoming board-certified was asked most frequently.

The board’s report notes that national certification may lead to higher salaries for teachers, but points out that such decisions will be up to the school districts that hire them.

“Unless board certification really means something, I’m not sure teachers will find it worth their while to subject themselves to what is likely to be an anxiety-ridden process,” said Joan-Marie Shelley, president of the San Francisco-American Federation of Teachers union.

But others cautioned against underestimating the teaching force’s longing for professional recognition.

“It’s a validation of what you’re about,” explained Susan Stitham, an English teacher from Alaska who is a board member. “They think this is going to give them some clout in terms of restructuring the classroom.”

Some states already are moving to recognize board certification of teachers. Washington State is prepared to add between $3,000 and $7,000 to its statewide salary schedule for board-certified teachers, according to Ronn Robinson, the governor’s assistant for education.

Iowa passed legislation in 1987 stating that if the national board’s criteria are in harmony with the state’s licensing requirements, teachers with board certification will automatically be granted a license to teach in Iowa.

While the cost of the assessments will not be known for some time, Joan Baratz-Snowden, the board’s vice president for assessment and research, said it will be significantly more than current teacher tests.

“Teachers spend $300 a credit to get a master’s degree as the only opportunity for advancement,” she explained. “To spend several hundred dollars for an assessment opportunity does not seem to be out of our realm.”

A Reform Agenda

Along with raising $50 million to develop new forms of teacher assessment that are expected to include portfolios, interviews, samples of student achievement, and classroom observation, the board intends to support three education-reform issues.

These are: creating a more effective environment for teaching and learning in schools; increasing the supply of high-quality entrants into the profession, with a special emphasis on minorities; and improving teacher education and continued professional development.

While applauding the board’s interest in improving the educational climate, many forum participants cautioned that it should not divert itself from the daunting task of creating a national certification system for teachers.

But several black and Hispanic educators disagreed, saying the board cannot afford to view the recruitment of minority teachers as a sidelight.

“Otherwise, this national board can become just one more juncture in the pipeline where minorities leak out,” said Vanetta Jones, dean of the school of education and urban studies at Morgan State University.

Union Domination?

In addition, some forum participants complained that the board appeared to be dominated by the teachers’ unions. That imbalance could lead to misperceptions that the board is simply a vehicle for raising teachers’ salaries, they said.

Of the board’s 63 members, 33 are teachers, one-third of whom were appointed by the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association. Some teachers who were not appointed by the unions also are union members.

Albert Shanker, president of the aft, ackowledged that the board must take pains not to appear to be run by the unions.

“A lot of people will raise the money issue and say, ‘Is this the place they’re going to do their union business, or think about the interests of the kids?”’ Mr. Shanker said. “I’d hope we do the latter.”

Gerald N. Tirozzi, commissioner of education in Connecticut, also warned the board not to lose sight of the role of administrators in school-reform efforts.

“To return board-certified teachers to schools in which principals act the same way” would not accomplish the educational changes advocated by the board, he said.

To date, the board has raised $1.6 million from a corporate fundraising drive, according to Annette Merritt-Cummings, the board’s director of development and marketing. In addition, the Carnegie Corporation of New York has pledged $5 million over the board’s first five years.

Millions To Raise

The board has asked the federal government for $25 million, which it intends to match with donations from corporations, professional organizations, and individual teachers. (See related story on this page.)

It also plans to solicit state funds, and to collaborate with some states to establish laboratories that would develop a new generation of teacher assessments, she said.

Copies of the board’s report, “Toward High and Rigorous Standards for the Teaching Profession,” are available for $7 from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 333 W. Fort St., Suite 2070, Detroit, Mich. 48226.

A version of this article appeared in the August 02, 1989 edition of Education Week as Teaching Board Says Professional Degree Is Not Requirement


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