The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is taking a hands-on approach to foster more board-certified teachers in high-need school districts.
The board’s Targeted High Need Initiative Comprehensive Candidate Support Centers will give resources — both financial and professional — to a handful of partner school systems, teacher colleges, and professional groups such as teachers’ unions so they can create an infrastructure to recruit and train more teachers to become board-certified in districts seeking to raise student achievement.
A past version of the program provided resources to high-need districts to offer support to teachers seeking the credential and to provide them with mentoring from trained board-certified teachers. But under the newer, expanded version, “we will provide aid to a teacher from the beginning [stages of board certification] all the way to their growth as a teacher leader,” said Joyce Loveless, the executive director for program access and equity at the NBPTS.
The private Arlington, Va.-based organization was formed in 1987 to provide recognition for teachers deemed outstanding through a rigorous review process.
The revised support program will focus also on building a professional-learning community made up of board-certified teachers to recruit candidates for the national credential and help those who are already going through the process. Data on program applicants will also be collected to gauge the effectiveness of the support.
At present, 41 percent of board-certified teachers teach in high-need schools, but NBPTS officials say they believe that targeting such areas directly would help further increase that number and close student-achievement gaps. They expect at least 500 teachers to go through the certification process this year under the new initiative.
Some research-based evidence is available that teachers certified by the national board help improve student performance, although researchers are divided on how to characterize the size of the impact. Forty-two states offer incentives to teachers who become board-certified.
Between 2003 and 2007, the NBPTS awarded the credential to 63,800 teachers.
To achieve certification, teachers go through a performance-based assessment that takes one to three years to complete. Teachers are tested on their knowledge of the subjects they teach, and they build portfolios that include student work samples, assignments, video recordings, and thorough analyses of their classroom teaching.
Variety of Stakeholders
Participants in the candidate-support initiative this year include the Clark County school district in Nevada, where Las Vegas is located; Coppin State University in Baltimore; Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.; the Prince George’s County school district in Maryland; and the Washington Education Association in Washington state.
“We wanted a variety of stakeholders to be represented. We don’t want this to be seen as a one-size-fits-all approach,” Ms. Loveless said.
She pointed out that one of the pieces of the program is to ask the participating sites to leverage resources and community partners to sustain it once NBPTS involvement ends after three years. The NBPTS, which will provide some money to each district, is setting aside $500,000 for the initiative.
In the 129,000-student Prince George’s County district, 180 teachers have enrolled this school year to pursue certification under the initiative, said Pamela Shetley, the supervisor of the district’s National Board Certified Teacher Leadership Development Office.
Ms. Shetley said the past version of the initiative proved helpful to the district. During the three years it was in place, the number of board-certified candidates tripled from 60 to 180.
“Our goal is to have nationally board-certified teachers in every one of our  schools,” Ms. Shetley said.
Besides helping the district mount a more aggressive drive to recruit candidates for certification, she said, the grant has helped pay for the creation of a teacher-leadership program to provide support to candidates and build the mentoring, coaching, and leadership skills of teachers.
A networking feature is also now available to teachers undergoing certification, enabling them to get together to discuss topics of interest, Ms. Shetley added. Candidates also get one-on-one mentoring from board-certified teachers and attend professional-development workshops, among other benefits.
A version of this article appeared in the August 13, 2008 edition of Education Week as NBPTS Expands Credentialing in High-Need Districts