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Date: June 11, 2008
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Board Certification Identifies Strong Teachers,
But Many School Systems Are Not Using Board-Certified Teachers' Expertise
WASHINGTON -- Advanced certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is an effective way to identify highly skilled teachers, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. Students taught by NBPTS-certified teachers make greater gains on achievement tests than students taught by teachers who are not board-certified, says the report. However, it is unclear whether the certification process itself leads to higher quality teaching.
"Earning NBPTS certification is a useful 'signal' that a teacher is effective in the classroom," said Milton Hakel, Ohio Board of Regents' Eminent Scholar in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Bowling Green State University, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "But we don't know whether the certification process itself makes teachers more effective -- as they become familiar with the standards and complete the assessment -- or if high-quality teachers are attracted to the certification process."
The report recommends further research to investigate that question, as well as to determine whether NBPTS certification is having broader effects on the educational system, beyond individual classrooms. Studies so far suggest that many school systems are not supporting or making the best use of their board-certified teachers.
Created in 1987, the nonprofit National Board for Professional Teaching Standards developed standards for what effective teachers should know and be able to do, along with a process to evaluate whether individual teachers meet these criteria. To earn certification, a teacher must complete six computer-based exercises and assemble a portfolio that shows how his or her teaching meets the standards.
From 1993 through 2007, 99,300 teachers applied for NBPTS certification, and 63,800 earned the credential. Overall, that means that there are three board-certified teachers for every five schools in the U.S., though participation rates vary widely by district and state. Not surprisingly, states that provide incentives to board-certified teachers have higher numbers of teachers who pursue certification.
Positive Effect on Student Achievement
Students taught by teachers who are board certified make larger gains on achievement test scores than those taught by teachers who are not, though the differences vary by state and subject, the report says. Students taught by teachers who had attempted to earn certification but failed made smaller gains than students taught either by board-certified teachers or by teachers who had not made the attempt.
Further studies should examine the effects of NBPTS certification on students' test scores in more states and subjects, the report says. Most research to date has taken place in Florida and North Carolina – states with high NBPTS participation rates – and has looked at effects on reading and math scores. Studies also should explore how board-certified teachers affect outcomes other than test scores, such as student motivation and attendance rates.
Effects on Teachers' Careers
One of NBPTS' goals is to encourage high-performing teachers to stay in the profession. Although there is some limited evidence that board-certified teachers remain in teaching at higher rates than nonboard-certified ones, it is unknown whether earning board certification affected their decisions to stay in the field. Moreover, there is no information on the career paths of teachers who earn certification compared with those who do not, the report says. NBPTS should create and maintain a database of information on applicants' future careers.
Evidence from a study of teachers in North Carolina suggests that board-certified teachers tend to change teaching jobs at a higher rate than nonboard-certified teachers, and they tend to move to more advantaged schools -- such as schools with fewer students in poverty, the report says. Still, it is not clear that this tendency is any stronger for board-certified teachers than for other teachers with excellent qualifications or that this finding would extend beyond North Carolina.
There are clear disparities in application rates, the committee noted, with teachers from advantaged schools more likely to apply for certification than others. In addition, though black teachers are as likely to apply as white teachers, they are underrepresented among those who pass the assessment. NBPTS should continue its current efforts to understand these disparities.
Board-Certified Teachers Often Not Supported
The task force that created NBPTS envisioned that the standards would have a broad impact and that board-certified teachers would influence how their colleagues teach. There is little evidence that the standards are having such spillover effects, the report says, though much of the needed research has not been conducted.
Except in isolated instances, there is no evidence that districts or schools are encouraging board-certified teachers to work in difficult schools or mentor other teachers, said the committee. In some cases, administrators have discouraged board-certified teachers from assuming responsibilities outside the classroom and have downplayed the significance of the credential. Likewise, some teachers have concealed their certification so as not to seem to be superior to their colleagues.
NBPTS Needs Ongoing Evaluation and Improvement
The portfolios that NBPTS requires candidates to assemble provide an authentic representation of a teacher's skills, the report says. The reliability of the way NBPTS scores its assessments is consistent with expectations for a largely portfolio-based process, but lower than desired for high-stakes assessments. NBPTS should explore ways to improve the reliability of its scoring, possibly by increasing the number of exercises on the computer-based component.
In general, NBPTS should devote more effort to continuously evaluating and improving its assessments, the report says. The board also should publish technical documentation that demonstrates that its assessments are developed, administered, and scored in accordance with high standards; such documentation was not readily available when the committee began its assessment.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.
Copies of Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Center for Education
Board on Testing and Assessment
Committee on Evaluation of the Impact of Teacher Certification by the
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
Milton D. Hakel (chair)
Ohio Board of Regents' Eminent Scholar and Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Department of Psychology
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio
Public Policy Institute of California; and
Department of Economics
University of California, San Diego
Senior Fellow, and
Director of the Education Area
Mathematica Policy Research Inc.
Professor of Sociology and Educational Policy Studies, and
Wisconsin Center for Education Research
Department of Sociology
University of Wisconsin
Education Policy Center
The Urban Institute
Professor of Education and Sociology
University of Pennsylvania
Michael T. Kane
Director of Research
National Conference of Bar Examiners
Deirdre J. Knapp
Assessment Research and Analysis Program
Human Resources Research Organization
Associate Professor of Education and Business
Graduate School of Business
James (Torch) H. Lytle
Practice Professor of Education
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
C. Ford Morishita
Clackamas High School
Lynn W. Paine
Associate Professor of Teacher Education
College of Education
Michigan State University
Neil J. Smelser*
Professor of Sociology Emeritus
University of California
Senior Social Scientist
Santa Monica, Calif.
Ana Maria Villegas
Department of Curriculum and Teaching
College of Education and Human Services
Montclair State University
Dorothy Y. White
Department of Mathematics Education
University of Georgia
Karen K. Wixson
Professor of Education
School of Education
University of Michigan
RESEARCH COUNCIL STAFF