National Board Moving the Profession Forward

I’ve just returned from a meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and I am thrilled about where this important organization is headed.

I also feel the need to set straight some disparaging rumors about NBPTS and encourage people to look more closely at what is an important front in the education reform battle in this country.

First, it is important to note that while the staff of NBPTS has been reduced due to reorganization, that staff now includes a significant number of NBCTs—including the Chief Operating Officer, Andy Coons. Another is the Director of Standards, Kristin Hamilton.

NBPTS has also matured to the point that the majority of the Board of Directors (15/26) are NBCTs including (besides me): Kimberly Oliver-Burnim (former National Teacher of the Year), and Glenda Ritz, newly elected state superintendent of Indiana. The majority of the NBCTs are practicing classroom teachers.

Under the direction of new president, Ron Thorpe, NBPTS has made some important changes and earned some much-deserved respect both nationally and internationally. Responding to the needs of NBCTs and candidates, the Board has recently (some would say, finally) shifted to electronic submission of the portfolios, upgraded its website, and other moves to make it more accessible and user-friendly for NBCTs and potential candidates.

Another exciting development, again thanks to the prodding of NBCTs, has been to make better use of the vast NBPTS database of accomplished teaching resources (videos and teacher reflections). Thus was born ATLAS [Accomplished Teacher Learning and Schools].

The National Board is getting its first look at the use of ATLAS in a three-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Education through its Investing in Innovation (i3) program.  Working closely with Linda Darling-Hammond and the Stanford-based Teacher Performance Assessment Consortium (edTPA), along with AACTE, the two teacher unions, Deborah Ball’s team at Michigan, and evaluator AIR, ATLAS will be introduced into teacher prep and induction programs.

While ATLAS was originally imagined as a support for teacher preparation and early career development, pilot programs in the states of Washington and Maine are now using the resource to train principals to be better observers and evaluators of teachers. National Board has received other inquiries, too, regarding professional development for teachers faced with implementing the new Common Core State Standards and other content areas. Whenever and wherever this resource is used, it extends the teacher voice into the way the profession works. (Building a True Profession, Part III)

One rumor I would like to smack-down is that the NB certification process is being run by Pearson. That is an insult to my fellow NBCTs, Board members, and staff who have fought hard and long to maintain both the independence and the quality of National Board Certification. Currently, Pearson is contracted to handle the logistics of the certification process. However, the development of the standards, as well as how they are assessed, scored, and reviewed is all under the control of NBPTS. The unfortunate glitch in release of candidate scores a couple of years ago, was a problem with Pearson’s logistics, but the scores were never lost (just regretfully delayed). National Board Certification was and remains a process created and run by teachers, for teachers.

Most important, NBPTS stands poised to help bring the teaching profession to one of its most elusive, yet essential goals: The development of a true profession. If we, educators, want to be treated like professionals, we have to be a profession. That means setting and maintaining standards for who enters, stays, and excels in this profession. It means holding ourselves and each other accountable for standards and ethics we have developed. To paraphrase Thorpe:

Governments do not create professions. Neither do businesses nor foundations. By definition, professions are created by those in the profession. If teaching is going to claim its rightful state as a true profession, then teachers and other practitioners must make sure [our]voice guides the work. That voice should exert itself through the standards of accomplished practice and the path that all teachers travel to become accomplished. Both will put teachers in a position to define the key terms of [our]work and will create the habits of mind that need to become the profession’s norm. ]We] teachers must realize, however, that no one will do this for [us]. [We] either do it for [ourselves],or through [our]silence agree to comply with the vision others have for [us].

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