We do know how good teaching looks (part 1)

When teacher quality is such a hot-button issue, why is the funding and support for Nationally Board Certified Teachers drying up? Teacher Renee Moore introduces a series of blogs examining the standards for NBCT teachers.

MYTH: “We don’t know what makes a good teacher!”

The truth is we do know a great deal about what makes not only a good teacher, but a highly accomplished one. Highly accomplished is how the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) defines teachers who achieve National Board Certification.

For over twenty years, NBPTS has worked to develop what has become the “gold standard” for quality teaching. At the heart of the National Board certification process are over 25 sets of standards for educators in every subject area and grade level, including counselors, library media specialists, and now principals.

I am honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the NBPTS, and I have the privilege of co-chairing its Certification Council, the body which oversees the development and updating of the Standards. I’m not sure how many people in the education reform arena understand just how intense the NBPTS Standards development process is. More important: I don’t believe enough people interested in quality education have taken the time to read the Standards themselves and realize how much information we actually do have on what is good teaching.

In a country where 1 in every 8 of us is a teacher, 92,000 have so far attained National Board Certification status. Joyfully, there are many more who qualify, but have not gone through the process. Woefully, many states are unwisely cutting the support for teachers to get National Board Certification at a time when increasing teacher quality is a vital for our children.

As in other professions, those who are the recognized leaders in their fields are used as the models for establishing standards. Look at the teachers whose students have had the greatest success, the ones who consistently bridge achievement gaps, the ones that parents, supervisors, students, and peers point to as outstanding–and ask what is it they do that other teachers do not, or at least not consistently.

That is step 1 in the NBPTS standards development process.

Standards are developed by a committee of outstanding educators who are broadly representative of accomplished professionals in their field. While the majority of each committee is made up of classroom teachers, other members may include experts in child development, teacher education and relevant disciplines. The committee provides recommendations to the National Board and advises those involved in developing the corresponding assessment.  —(NBPTS.org/The Standards/Standards Development)

This drafting process may take several months to a year. The standards go through several methodical steps including public review and comment. This allows an even broader range of persons with expertise and interest in the standards to contribute to their final form. I know from experience that every comment read and considered, many times leading to further investigation or discussion, and possible revision.

Standards are also reviewed and updated on a regularly scheduled rotation to keep them reflective of the most advanced research and developments in each field. The results are the best summation of teaching that truly makes a difference for students.

The greatest testament to the quality of the standards; however, comes from the tens of thousands of teachers who have studied them, and used them as a gauge of their own classroom practice. Increasingly, teacher education programs, accreditation agencies, and some states are looking to the National Board standards as guidelines for their work.

I’m devoting a series of blogs to exploring some of the NBPTS standards, and challenging the myth that what constitutes good teaching is mystery. The real mystery is why the education profession and policymakers charged with providing public education have not rallied more strongly behind these standards and encouraging more teachers to become certified?

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