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The National-Certification Effect


National Board Certification has virtually no correlation to student achievement, according to a recent study examining student and teacher records in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Wake County school districts in North Carolina. The study found basically no difference in the achievement levels of students whose teachers earned the prestigious NBPTS credential, those who tried but failed to earn it, those who never tried to get the certification, or those who earned it after the student test-score data was collected.

What's your view? Is certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards a good indicator of a teacher's effectiveness? Is the process worth it for schools and educators? What qualities do effective teachers share?


I agree there is no difference in the outcome of student achievement with a teacher who has completed the certification. I don't think it's the teacher so much as the students that make up the current school population.

I tried one year for certification, and life-circumstances prevented me from completing my re-try years. I have friends who are wonderful educators who completed the three years and didn't get certified. I have friends who are wonderful educators who had more time to focus on it, and did. However, no one I know who tried and wasn't good got the certification, and everyone who applied and was reflective about their practice improved. Also, there are fantastic teachers who don't have time or finances to apply. I do believe that NBCTs are more in tune to their practice and will, in the long run, get the most out of their students. If everyone had to complete the process, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg results would be different. The teachers who are exemplary and find time to complete their portfolios and studying would be NBCTs. There probably isn't enough support yet for teachers who don't have their own support group of friends. I will reapply next year, and I do have the network of mentors I need to critique my practice honestly.

While many accomplished teachers do not attempt NB for various reasons, it has been my experience that those that do attempt-certify or not, become better teachers through the process and better teachers can and do get better student performance. I don't think it is so much about whether you are certified or not but more about whether you are a reflective educator that is willing to do whatever it takes to help students become life long learners and successful, productive citizens. In our state, I do know that NB has raised the bar for excellence and challenged teachers to see if they measure up at a national level. There are other ways for us to grow as professionals but very few have offered the professional and personal rewards of such an achievement. We expect other professionals to be top in their fields and prove it, why not teachers? Is being competent the way we are going to improve education? Again, the question isn't about whether someone is NB or not, it's about teacher quality and leadership and what we are all doing on a daily basis to move our students, our schools, and our profession forward.

I thought that the National Boards were to give teachers the professional status that they deserve. Why does it have to be linked to how it effects student learning? Are studies performed on how effective doctors are in treating their patients because they are board certified? No, they are not and we can all vouch for the fact that there are bad doctors out there yet they are board certified. By linking this certification to student learning you are defeating the purpose of Board Certification in my estimation.

Overall, I think that the public expects more of teachers than is reasonable. I work in urban Los Angeles and am NBC. However, the NB process cannot help the issues in my classroom such as sporadic attendance, English Language Learners, and poor parental involvement. It is likely true that the study has pointed to the fact that certain variables are beyond any teacher's control. But I think we have all known this for a long time.

I think the NBC process is great. I definitely became more organized and focused as a teacher and it allowed me to analyze weaknesses in my teaching and strengthen them. However, I work with wonderful teachers everyday who are not NBC. We should not conclude that a teacher is "sub standard" because they are not NBC. We must remember the education it takes in most states to even get a preliminary credential, and the amount of coursework it takes to clear that credential.

It is difficult to know what to make of this latest study. First, it contradicts previous high-quality research. A well-done study by Goldhaber and Anthony of the Urban Institute found that National Board-certified teachers had higher student test score gains than non-Board certified teachers. This research also used data from North Carolina. Second, so far all we have information on is a summary of this latest research. Until we have available full information on this latest study, it is impossible to tell whether its methodology is sound, or even what exactly its results are.

I tried for NB in 2003, missed by 22 points. I couldn't afford to retake the 2nd year, but retook two sections the 3rd yr, all I could afford, I missed it by 10 points. Do I feel that I'm a better teacher? What I did for NB was more research and focusing on individual students than I have time for normally. I thought a lot about how I teach, and learned new things through the process. It made me try things, and look at things differently. I did not ask for a lot of help from other teachers, feeling that I should earn it on my own merits, rather than taking others' ideas, I may have gotten the additional 10 pts if I had been less individualistic! However, I am proud of what I did, and feel I have grown personnally through the process. Knowing many teachers who are NB, I don't believe they are any better at teaching than many who aren't. Student achievement has more to do with you and the students you have to work with, than how many papers you've written, the degree you earned or any other superlatives. I don't think that NB should be so tied to student acheivement, it is a program of personal growth and achievement, it will reflect the person, which will in turn reflect on your students, but perhaps not in the good old standardized assessments. I am much prouder of a child who overcomes a behavioral problem that is keeping him from learning, or the girl who makes her first 100 on a paper, than I am of the ones who are top level on standardized. These are the signs of a great teacher. True teachers will shine no matter what.

Although raising student achievement is always an admirable goal and the current hot topic in education, it isn't the only challenge we face. I'd like to see research on whether students of NCB teachers are more likely to stay in school, less likely to demonstrate behavior problems, and more likely to choose teaching as a profession for themselves. Also, does the NCB process have an effect on the burnout rate for teachers?

The emphasis placed upon the correlation between the student test scores and NB teachers is not appropriate in my opinion. My students have passing scores each year and I am not NB certified. I do not plan to get certified by NB unless it becomes required. I am highly qualified and was before NCLB. I think it just takes dedication and determination. I also think researchers sometimes forget the special ed factor. I live in one of the most economically disadvantage areas in our nation and my students have very high expectations. I am by no means saying I am some wonder teacher. My kids' scores are not just a product of my teaching; they are a product of previous teachers also. I just think our program works here and our teachers are not NB certified.

As pointed out, this recent study conflicts with 7 or 8 previous studies, including others that were also done in North Carolina, as well as other states, so I take the results with a grain of salt.

But also, why is North Carolina the subject of so many National Board studies? Because tt has some of the highest numbers of teachers becoming NB certified? - Sounds to me like a reason NOT to use that state. If I were a researcher, I would choose a state with more average participation numbers, representative of more states. Not every state offers "to pay the certification fee upfront and provide up to three days of release time to allow candidates time for portfolio and assessment center exercises preparation. The legislation also provides a 12 percent salary increase to a teachers’ state-paid salary for those who achieve National Board Certification." (quote from www.nbpts.org) Good grief, who WOULDN'T try for NB under those circumstances? It seems to me that in choosing a state with such a financial incentive, you get more applicants, and not a true representation of NB applicants nationwide.
In other states, fewer teachers apply because there isn't the financial motivation, and there you might find more of a difference between results of NB and non-NB teachers. So I feel the study is misleading in attempting to discuss NB in general - the titles and headlines should specify "North Carolina NB teachers."

HOWEVER, I think North Carolina's financial reward for achieving NB is terrific, and would like to see it implemented in every state (along with more stringent scoring and a higher grade required to certify.)

I am an NBCT in Exceptional Needs. I know many teachers that have attempted or achieved certification, and they uniformly report that the process was the most engaging and enriching professional development activity that they ever participated in. They further report that they remain driven to demand and deliver the best instruction for all students every minute of every day. Does certification translate into higher student test scores? Does certification translate into a more focused and engaging instruction? We need to continue to ask a variety of questions and collect a variety of data.

This study confirms the nonsense of NCLB and the Highly Qualified Teacher requirement.. Just because one possesses a degree or certificate does not make one a better teacher. In universities where virtually everyone has a Ph.D., the graduation rate is barely 28%. Great teachers are able to communicate with and relate to their students, they make the course work relevant, they have fun and make learning fun for their students! Many of the best teachers I have worked with have no degree – just a lifetime of experience they share with others.

I have been concerned about the quality of board-certified teachers for a while. I would whole-heartedly agree that there is more difference between NBC teachers than between NBC and non-NBC teachers; such has been my experience. Teaching is such a richly complex phenomenon that it cannot be grasped by the portfolio/test process. Where is there shown student achievement? Student involvement? Student motivation? Relationship? and many other factors that play a part in educating students well. I know of teachers who are NBC whose practice I do not admire much, and who fail large numbers of students. This disconnect between certification and student learning is troubling.

That said, I found the actual process interesting and motivating. Teachers definitely need recognition for their achievements. I'm just not sure that the NBC process is measuring the "right' things.

Studies are valuable tools to help us make good decisions. Policy makers need all sides of an issue before new policy is created. School communites need all types of support and the focus should not just be the test scores but the working conditions and as one educator noted above the student interaction to school. Success is more than a score, but how a student and teacher have connected. There are many accomplished teachers both NBCTs, Master/Lead and other that make a difference everyday. We should not focus on just the negative in schools nor should we focus on the tests scores only. I am honored to know that in NC policy makers and educators alike support the NBPTS process and respect their skills as well as the skills on non NBCTs.

I just sent in my box today on my second try. I would like to be certified, but it's just because I'm one of those people who needs a challenge. The mountain was there, so I climbed it. I think the ideals that NBPTS is trying to promote are good ones. The concepts presented really exemplify what we should strive to be as educators, but I'm not sure the process actually identifies (or creates) those kind of teachers. To be honest, if you're taking time to complete the National Board process, you probably aren't as focused on your kids as you should be. I speak from experience. Sometimes the things that make a good teacher are the intangibles - you know, the things you can't show in a 15 minute video. I guess it's good that we're trying to raise the bar and find a way to gain some respect outside the schoolhouse door, but darn it - what teachers do every day should garner a ton of respect. People have no idea!

Can someone reply listing the specific benefits of National Certification? To me it sounds as if it is another way for a city or state to market to the public that teachers are continuing their education. Wouldn't it be better to earn a masters and phd?

How accurate are the test scores anyway? I have taught for twenty-four years. I have seen teachers with very low achievers score very high. I have seen teachers with very capable scores not score so high. This discussion comes at an interesting time for me. My students just finished taking a test. The scores were put into the computer for results. I had the more capable students this year. My students performed throughout better than the other classes on my grade level. I know because I tutored the students from the other classes. Yet, in the end the class with five students lower than all my students outscored my class. (I had one student as low as her lowest five.)
I worked my tail off so that my students would score high and they did, but this other class outdid mine. Now how can that be if everyone is testing uniformly? Questionable testing practices are widespread, so how do you know if the results from the study are reliable and valid? I have seen everything from breaking up test sessions into two sessions to more brow raising procedures. Maybe National Board Certification teachers are better; maybe not. We will not know until administrators and politicians take some of the pressure off teachers. There a lot of excellent teachers that choose not to be board certified and there are some poor teachers that are board certified. It's all about how much those teachers really care about their students.

In my travels to various middle and high schools across Ohio, I find that NBC can be a valuable process in which teachers can become more reflective and student-centered as a result of working for certification. However, to cite student achievement test scores to rate the effectiveness of NBC works against what the program should stand for in principle. To be student-centered and responsive to student needs is to be understanding of all the components that shape a student's experiences with learning. To do this, we must recognize the social and cultural factors that help shape any given experience for any given student. NBC teachers learn through self-reflection how to mediate all the various settings that make up a student's learning experiences. As such, no single standardized testing situation can possibly present an accurate picture. Until a test is made that recognizes the social and cultural identities of our diverse student population and their various ways of "knowing", we will never be able to capture the many gifts our pre-K-12 teachers bring to their students each day. NBC can help teachers to learn more about responding to the various needs of students from all walks of life. Regardless os test scores, that makes the program a huge sucess.

I cannot speak knowledgeably about the first couple of questions addressed in the areticle, however I will attempt to make comment on the last question. There are definite characteristics of an effective teacher. I am an administrator at an higher education institutuion and have several teachers(some teaching for 30 plus years)and educators in my immediate family. One characteristic is effective classroom management. Second, student involvement and enagagement, just to name two. There is a diference between a teacher and an instructor. I encourage you to look up the words. I believe that certain elements in our national education system (at least k-12) have manipulated educatores into becoming instructors not teachers. An instructor facilitates but in my experience often times young people (k-12) don not posses abilities, experiences and knowledge to gather information in the manner. As an administartor at a higher education institution, sometimes the young adults don't have these abilties either.

well, I am not surprise. Test is not how you measure a teacher's teaching skills. The educator could not be a good test taker but an excellent teacher. They maynot be motivated to achieve another certification, but enjoy helping the students. So I believe educators teach from the heart and most know their materials that they have to teach the students.

I have been a board certified teacher for about four years now, and have to agree with Adele that the demographics of a given student population probably outweigh the impact of board certification on student achievement, "no excuses" rhetoric to the contrary. Did the process, though, make me a better teacher? I know my clerical skills improved, but the most vivid memories I have of the certification process concern putting the right papers in the right envelopes so as not to disqualify myself.

The process of becoming a better teacher is great, with the intent of it being student-focus. I strongly believe that teachers knowledgeable of subjects they teach and their attitude in working with children make a lot of difference. Children learn best when they are in a positive environment, even though they are challenged with tasks. To match test scores is a separate issue because children come from all different environment and learn at different paces, learning styles, maturity levels, etc.

I have witness teachers going through the headaches of achieving their national board certification. I have seen those same teachers in the classroom and unfortunately, their is no indication that been a national board certified teacher improves the students achievement in the classroom. Many of these teachers go through the process with high expectations just to realized that this is just an exhausting paper process to push the so called standards.
There is no certification capable of substituing the passion for teaching and the teacher's self willingness to improve their skills on a day to day basis.

One needs to realize that the federal monies that nbpts receives is under the no child left behind. The reason that they receive this money is not that they identify quality teachers, but rather they can identify quality teachers who show a measurable effect on student score gain in achievement. They have not been able to prove this as of yet. So my question is, if they identify teachers as quality teachers (over other non nbpts teachers)and they can not show any significant statistical gain in student achievement, are they recieving federal funds under false pretenses? The money that is put into this organization, both federal and private, is huge. Is there a better way to spend this money?

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Recent Comments

  • mmfi: One needs to realize that the federal monies that nbpts read more
  • Norma/Foreign Language Teacher: I have witness teachers going through the headaches of achieving read more
  • Dee/Special Education Teacher: The process of becoming a better teacher is great, with read more
  • Karen/Language Arts NBCT: I have been a board certified teacher for about four read more
  • Nancy/Student in Masrers SPE Program: well, I am not surprise. Test is not how you read more




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