Assessment

National Certification Board Awards 5-Year Contract to Pearson

By Bess Keller — March 13, 2008 2 min read

The group that awards the nation’s only advanced certification for teachers will be dropping a 20-year collaboration with the Educational Testing Service to put its assessment operation in the hands of Pearson PLC.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced this month that it had awarded a five-year contract to Pearson Education, a division of the global media giant with headquarters in London and New York City. The privately organized NBPTS’ agreement with ETS, the Princeton, N.J.-based test-maker, runs out at the end of this year.

“It appeared that Pearson was best suited to lead us where we wanted to go over the next five years,” said Joan Auchter, the vice president for standards and assessment at NBPTS, which has headquarters in Arlington, Va., and grants voluntary certification to teachers who meet its standards. “The major thing is: Technology is one of their core competencies.”

She added that the switch was not a sign of dissatisfaction with ETS, which, she said, has done “an outstanding job.” ETS was instrumental in designing the assessments that over a dozen years have served to qualify nearly 64,000 teachers in 25 fields for the prized, and often rewarded, advanced certification.

The assessments include content-knowledge examinations taken in central locations and portfolios sent from home representing a teacher’s practice. They include evidence of student learning and classroom videotapes.

“It’s obviously disappointing; we started it with them,” said Walt MacDonald, the senior vice president for higher education and national assessment at the nonprofit ETS, which produces and administers the SAT college-entrance and the PRAXIS teacher-certification examinations, among others.“Our proposal had lots of innovations and good ideas.”

Enhancing the Experience

Ms. Auchter said the contract for the testing services, of an undisclosed size, was awarded after an extensive bidding process that drew four strong competitors.

NBPTS reviewers gave Pearson top marks for being able to “enhance the candidate testing experience,” according to Ms. Auchter. For example, Pearson will move to put the teachers’ portfolio submissions online and offers an extensive network of Pearson VUE testing centers that can handle all teaching fields, which is not currently possible. In addition, unlike ETS, Pearson uses permanent sites for scoring, which will continue to be done by experienced and trained teachers, many of them holders of the national credential.

Besides administering and scoring the assessments, Pearson Education, which in 2006 acquired the Amherst, Mass.-based National Evaluation Systems, a leading maker of teacher-certification tests, will be involved in any redesign of the assessments. Ms. Auchter said a long-range goal of the board is to connect its assessments more closely with student learning.

A version of this article appeared in the March 19, 2008 edition of Education Week

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