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National Board Certification for Teachers Makes a Comeback!

Have you ever lost something and discovered that it was right in front of you? That's the way I feel about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Everyone is running around chasing after teacher quality when the National Board discovered it 25 years ago.

Millions of dollars of research completed by some of the best minds in the country formed the foundation for this certification process. That foundation for accomplished teaching includes a commitment to students and their learning, deep and broad knowledge of subject matter and how to teach it to students, demonstrated ability to manage students and to assess their learning on an ongoing basis, the ability to improve by reflecting on practices and experiences, and collaboration with colleagues and the community. This process is so rigorous that only 40 percent certify on the first attempt, but 100 percent become better teachers as a result of the experience. This process really is the gold standard for good teaching.

Recently, the Board announced the hiring of Ron Thorpe to be its new President and CEO. Thorpe is savvy and a visionary. There is no one more capable to lead the comeback, rediscovery, and widespread promotion of this wonderful organization that is such an asset to the teaching profession. He honors and respects teachers and their profession. His success at WNET, the premier PBS station in New York City, gives testimony to his skills and knowledge of how teachers should be positioned in American society.

I hope that all those who care about teacher quality---from the right and the left, from the education reformers to the education transformers, from the unions to management--- will come together with this new leadership at the National Board and accelerate the recognition of accomplished teachers and the professional growth of those who are not at their peak.

Have that conversation about the role of student learning in the certification process. Wrestle to the ground whether test scores really are an effective measure of teaching or whether student effort, parental involvement, resources, and poverty can trump good teaching on a single day using a single test. Open your mind to the possibility that teachers should demonstrate their effect on student learning but not necessarily by using only test scores.

Perhaps the identification of teacher quality is about strong practice and requiring every teacher to take responsibility for his or her practice. The National Board has the most rigorous process to evaluate teaching practice. If we re-directed our focus and resources on practice rather than controversial tests, maybe we would spend more time looking at preparation, induction, licensure, and tenure. After all, those elements are the key to the success of the highest performing countries in the world. Even sweeter, the United States could do these countries one step better by requiring National Board Certification for new American teachers no later than their 10th year of teaching.

Now before you have a heart attack, remember it took the medical profession 25 years to require board certification for doctors. We are 25 years into teacher board certification. It seems to me we should take the next logical step if we really care about teacher quality. Which local union will be the first to advocate this? Who will make up the first management team of a school district? Who will be the first state governor?

The measurement of teacher quality is right in front of us. Embrace it, support it, and legislate it.

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