By guest blogger Faye Lefler Cook

Faye Lefler Cook is a National Board Certified Teacher, chair of the Hillsborough NBCT Council,  and member of  CTQ’s Hillsborough New Millennium Initiative. She teaches an amazing group of fifth graders in Plant City, Florida.

Imagine a world where every child has a master teacher from pre-school through high school.  Imagine a world where educators are able to have rich academic dialogue with every teaching colleague. Imagine a world where every teacher is considered a teacher-leader, who can provide support and willingly accept support from others. Imagine a world where every parent is able to smile proudly and proclaim, “My child has the best teacher ever!” year after year. In my imaginary world, this could happen if every teacher becomes a National Board Certified Teacher.

National Board Certification is a professional growth adventure. It is not a means of just showing what you know or do.  It is a means to develop what you grow and do to its highest level. It is a time of study, practice, reflections, revised practice, and then more reflections.

My school system, Hillsborough County Public Schools, in central Florida, is entering the third year of the historic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant which funds the Empowering Effective Teachers peer evaluation and new teacher mentoring program. The first year of data on teacher scores indicates that Hillsborough’s National Board Certified Teachers outperformed non-National Board Certified Teachers. The comparisons were made for all teachers, and then broken down by teachers with bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, specialist of education degrees, and doctorate degrees.

The numbers are statistically significant.

When you look at the total evaluation score–that is comprised of a peer score, the principal score, and the value-add (tests) score, NBCT’s rank almost one full standard deviation higher than non-NBCTs. Caution should be taken, since this is only one year of results, but as an NBCT, I believe we will see this as a trend-line from year to year as we progress through the seven-year grant funded initiative. The results of the initial year are congruent with several other studies carried out by theNational Board for Professional Teaching Standards and other research groups, such as theNational Research Council.

Financially accessibility may be the biggest obstacle to making my imaginary world a reality.  Teacher pay continues to lag when compared to other professions with similar education and credentials. The application fee for National Board certification can be prohibitive, particularly for younger teachers who are also providing for growing families. For the 2012-2013 school year, there is a path available to ease the financial burden for teachers in Title 1 schools to apply for National Board Certification. This path will be gone next school year, so this is a limited time opportunity.

Nationwide: Teachers in Title 1 schools can receive a federal subsidy which pays half of the application fee. There is no additional application process. For this year, the National Board is going to make sure that any teacher in a Title 1 school who applies will receive this subsidy.  Next school year, this grant money is going to be reallocated to other areas and will NOT be available. Check the National Board website, as well as your state department of education and district office, to find out if other assistance is available.

In Hillsborough County, FL: The Hillsborough Education Foundation has agreed to fund a matching grant of up to $500 to help any Hillsborough teacher with the application fee.  Additionally, Hillsborough’s Superintendent, MaryEllen Elia, established The Superintendent’s Recognition Fund  that provides a reimbursement for a portion of the fee for those teachers who earn NB certification. For teachers in Title 1 schools, and particularly for teachers in Hillsborough County, Florida, there may be no better year to apply. Potential candidates can also contact Sue Creekmore, Global Educational Consultant at for more information for the specifics of applying in the 2012-2013 school year.

Imagine a world in which the halls of our schools are filled with professionals who are constantly reflecting and improving our practice. However, to make my imaginary world a reality, we need help from political officials to provide support and financial incentives that teachers would need to make this important professional step, a step that would make students the ultimate winners.


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