National-Board Growth: A Boon, Not a Challenge

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To the Editor:

We at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards appreciate the thoughtful attention Education Week has given our organization. But we must respond to your most recent article, "The National Board: Challenged by Success?" (Aug. 15, 2007).

The article suggests that growth in the number of board-certified teachers to 60,000 this year may diminish the worth of the credential. If anything, the opposite is true: More certified teachers means that more students will benefit.

This former view reflects deep resistance to acknowledging teaching as a profession on par with other respected fields. Would anyone suggest professional credentials in law, medicine, or accounting are diminished when more professionals in these fields earn advanced certification? Probably not.

National-board certification has significant growth potential, and the growth will only strengthen the credential’s value. Studies by Julia E. Koppich, Daniel C. Humphrey, and Heather J. Hough show that, if anything, national-board- certified teachers have been underutilized as leaders and mentors, particularly in low-performing schools.

State leaders and school administrators across the nation see enough future value in these teachers to set goals much higher than the 2 percent national mark we hope to reach this year. In Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, around 10 percent of teachers are board-certified. California, Illinois, and Washington state, as well as districts such as Chicago and Prince George’s County in Maryland, want to dramatically increase the number of their national-board-certified teachers.

Research shows that national-board certification helps improve teaching, deepen student understanding, and strengthen mentoring, and can transform schools when such certified teachers are present in larger numbers. Research by Gary Sykes finds that, in Ohio, 52 percent of such teachers plan to stay in teaching “as long as they are able,” compared with 38 percent of noncertified teachers—an enduring value to the field.

Your article also misleads by emphasizing negative findings by Dan D. Goldhaber and Douglas N. Harris, whose research revealed mixed results. It did not mention a recent study in North Carolina by Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd, and Jacob L.Vigdor that found students of board-certified teachers generally outperformed those of other teachers when a wide range of other factors were held constant.

Simply put, the worth of national-board certification is not somehow slipping because more teachers are choosing to seek the credential.

Mary E. Dilworth
Vice President
Higher Education Initiatives and Research
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
Arlington, Va.

Vol. 27, Issue 2, Page 28

Published in Print: September 5, 2007, as National-Board Growth: A Boon, Not a Challenge
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