Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Good News for the National Board

The National Research Council released a report today--a meta-analysis of the research on National Board Certification and teacher effectiveness:

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.

Link to the press release and the full report.

Full disclosure: I am a National Board Certified Teacher and worked, for two years, as a Teacher in Residence at NBPTS. I am fully conversant with the range of research on National Board Certification--both positive and less than glowing--and have noticed a trend, lately, toward a shorthand, knee-jerk opinion that there is no "proof" that National Board Certification is a signal of anything except a willingness to put oneself through the assessment wringer for a year (which, in itself, represents a huge break from business as usual). It's gratifying to see a highly respected entity take a, well, scientifically based look and come out with some qualified positives.

And not just from a research/editorial/scholarly standpoint, either. Most National Board Certified Teachers (over 90%, in fact) will tell you that the process changes them and their teaching. They know, in their gut, that it's been good for their practice--especially being required to articulate what, precisely, their students have learned and how they know that learning is real. It's enormously frustrating for a teacher who's clear about the benefits to their own professional learning to be told the research on National Board Certification is murky or negative, negating their first-hand experience.

I'm sure they're celebrating at the National Board, but the real winners are National Board Certified Teachers.