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How Can We Fix Teacher Recertification? Consider the National Board

Catherine Anderson

License renewal should be an opportunity for educators to demonstrate professional growth and document the impact of their skills, knowledge, and dispositions—not a time-consuming hoop to jump through, a "one-size-fits-all" check list, or a roadblock to teaching. As states transition to the edTPA exam for initial licensure, perhaps it is time to consider a reflective, performance-based, independent assessment of a teacher's practice through a standardized license-renewal option.

As I work on my National Board-certification renewal, I am energized to reflect on my professional growth experiences and motivated to provide video evidence of accomplished teaching. I am challenged to showcase my professional learning, collaboration, and leadership as well as demonstrate my ability to foster a positive classroom environment, engage students in interactive, meaningful lessons, and provide evidence of pedagogy resulting in increased student learning. In my second renewal cycle, I am nervous yet excited to share my ongoing professional journey and make future plans for what I want to learn and accomplish. Isn't this how renewal should feel?

When I contrast this method of certificate renewal with the multitude of systems that educators today must navigate, I understand why many think teacher licensure is broken. While license renewal, recertification, or employment requirements may vary from state to state, most require multiple, repetitive checks on teacher expertise. In all cases, teachers are observed and evaluated annually by local administrators. Employment requires observations of a teacher's practice to determine if their skills fit the position. Additionally, a teacher must demonstrate effectiveness through multiple classroom observations and archiving of artifacts. Educators may also be required to craft a student learning objective, collect data throughout the year to demonstrate student growth, and set a professional learning goal, providing evidence of completion. They then periodically submit evidence of professional growth through course credits or a professional-development plan for licensure. These parallel systems are designed to ensure teacher competence; however, this duplication of efforts leaves much less time for teaching.

Years ago, these separate systems were necessary to address every facet of a teacher's practice. But now the lines have blurred, and each entity requires a version of professional development and teacher effectiveness. It may be time to go to an independent, standardized license renewal that removes duplicate systems and ensures all teachers with a renewed license have met the educator effectiveness skills and dispositions through a rigorous, performance-based, independently adjudicated process.

Catherine Anderson is a retired middle school science teacher of 34 years. She is an instructor with St. Mary's University of Minnesota in the Master of Arts in Education - Wisconsin program and a guest teacher with the Eau Claire school district in Wisconsin. A National Board-certified teacher, Anderson is a professional learning facilitator for National Board candidates and serves on the board of directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  

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