What does it mean to be a “highly accomplished” teacher?

That’s what National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) calls teachers who have achieved its advanced certification in their respective subject areas.

National Board Certification® is a comprehensive process that requires teachers to show “clear, convincing, and consistent evidence” that they meet a set of scientifically developed, pedagogically sound, rigorous standards that have been proven to lead to high levels of student learning.

In other words, a highly accomplished teacher is one who truly makes a difference for students. These are the highly effective, high quality teachers whom we keep hearing that we need [more of] in our classrooms.

Board Certification provides a means for identifying experienced teachers who have reached this level of performance. These are not initial standards for licensing beginners, but increasingly, schools of education are adopting all or part of the NBPTS standards to help strengthen their preparation of new teachers.

Each of the 25 National Board certificate areas has its own set of standards for teachers in that subject because teaching is content specific. There are, however, certain characteristics that all highly accomplished teachers practice. NBPTS calls those The Five Core Propositions:

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from their experiences.
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

In its publication: What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do (2002), NBPTS outlined these Core Propositions in great detail, and the Core continue to serve as the basis for all of the standards.  The document also reminds us of the mission of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards:

“To advance the quality of teaching and learning by:

  • Maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do
  • Providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards.
  • Advocating for related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.

“National Board Certification, developed by teachers, with teachers, and for teachers, is a symbol of professional teaching excellence”(1).

It’s important to note that there are many teachers across this nation who meet the criteria for certification, but have not yet pursued National Boards. Board Certification is, and should remain a voluntary process that over 91,000 teachers have achieved.  However, almost half of the teachers who attempt certification do not achieve it the first time (candidates do have opportunity to retake). Yet most of those who do not achieve will testify that going through the process itself has made them better teachers.

National Board Certification is also an expensive process, for which teachers in many states or districts are neither supported nor compensated after they earn it.  Meanwhile, we continue to chant the mantra that a high quality teacher is the most important factor in a student’s education.  Moreover, many of the teachers who have shown that they are capable of highly accomplished teaching by achieving National Board Certification are in too many places not allowed or not expected to work at that level with their students. I can’t think of a greater waste of human talent or of our children’s potential.

Parents and school board members: Are there National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) in your local school/district? How many? How are they being utilized in and out of the classroom?  Which students do they serve? How are other teachers being encouraged or supported to become NBCTs?

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