Nation’s Corps of Accomplished Teachers Grows as Global Stakes Rise for America’s Students

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Editor’s Note: State-level data on National Board Certified Teachers is available online here. To identify National Board Certified Teachers in your area, an updated searchable index is available here.

ARLINGTON, Va. — More than 4,000 teachers nationwide have just learned the exciting news that they have achieved National Board Certification, demonstrating the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully prepare students for 21st century careers. To date, more than 106,000 teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved the profession’s highest mark of accomplishment through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process.

Recently, results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) triggered renewed concern as the scores of U.S. 15-year-old showed no improvement and were below average in math and science. The United States places close to the middle of the pack among the 65 countries and economies that participated in the PISA.

“It’s no surprise that the countries where students perform well on the PISA, like Singapore and Finland, are the same ones that are investing deeply in creating a world-class teaching workforce,” said Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board. “To join them, we are working with our partners to ensure that every novice teacher is on a trajectory towards accomplished practice. Board certification must become the norm as it is in other professions. This will require a strong and unified commitment across teacher preparation, development, and leadership as we know it.”

“Most important,” Thorpe added, “we have to make sure that quality teaching is as prevalent in schools serving poor communities as it is in more affluent ones. We’re proud that nearly half of all Board-certified teachers are working in high-need schools, but we have yet to reach the tipping point. To get the results we all seek for all students, particularly our most vulnerable, we need to have a high concentration of accomplished teachers working where they can make the greatest difference.”

This vision is taking hold in states and districts across the country that are working collaboratively to build a quality teaching workforce that is sustainable. Groups representing teachers and administrators in Kentucky, Nevada, New York, and Washington State, as well as in the San Francisco and Albuquerque school districts, are partnering with each other and the National Board to increase teacher effectiveness across the career continuum. As part of this effort, the sites will recruit National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) as teacher leaders in high-need schools, particularly in the STEM subjects. The project is funded by a $15 million Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

“The stakes are high as expectations for students and teachers continue to rise with the demands of the global economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Students today must be able to solve problems by applying what they have learned in new and unexpected ways. As our nation’s most accomplished educators, National Board Certified Teachers are well positioned to move our students, workforce, and country forward.”

Washington State gained the most NBCTs with 516 teachers achieving in 2013. States that experienced the largest growth in their ranks of NBCTs in 2013 were Wyoming (17 percent), Hawaii (14 percent), and Montana (14 percent). North Carolina continues to lead the nation with more than 20,000 teachers in the state achieving Board certification to date. Each of these states benefits from strong systems of peer support and mentoring for candidates, state and district incentives for certification, and recognition of the importance of Board certification from union leaders to state legislators. But every community has its own unique National Board story.

  • Alabama: Three years ago, Piedmont City Schools Superintendent Matt Akin offered to pay the cost of certification for any teacher who chose to pursue it. In that short time, the small, rural district in Northeastern Alabama, where 63 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch, has gone from having no NBCTs to having more than a quarter of its teachers achieve Board certification. “The level of teaching in this system continues to elevate year after year,” Akin said. “I think National Board Certification definitely plays into that.”
  • Washington State: Helping to drive one of fastest-growing statewide National Board programs are districts like North Thurston Public Schools, a midsize suburban district on the Puget Sound that boasts 103 NBCTs and student achievement levels well above the state average. Troy Oliver, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, cited the many NBCTs who have stepped up to mentor and coach their colleagues. “It provides certifying teachers with concrete validation of their skill level,” he said of the National Board process. “This, in turn, gives them the confidence to share with others.”
  • Chicago: With more than 2,100 NBCTs, Chicago Public Schools has one of the highest concentrations of NBCTs in a large urban district, and nearly 75 percent are working in high-need schools. This year, 86 schools gained new NBCTs. At Lindblom Math & Science Academy on the city’s Southside, NBCTs serve as department chairs in math, science, social studies, and English, and the school-wide instructional leadership team is led by an NBCT. “Teachers who’ve had the opportunity to look deeply at their practice and are reflective are better able to provide the rigorous and challenging instruction and provide the high level of support that students need to reach those challenges,” said Principal Alan Mather. 

Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and chairman of the NBPTS Board of Directors, predicted that states and districts that actively cultivate NBCTs will leapfrog over others in their ability to produce career- and college-ready graduates. “National Board Certification isn’t just about identifying great teachers—it’s about elevating the profession so that our children achieve at higher rates,” Gov. Wise said. “Whether it is serving as a curriculum coach, leading effective implementation of the Common Core State Standards, or mentoring fellow teachers through the certification process, NBCTs have a ripple effect on teaching and learning that extends well beyond their classrooms.”

Research has shown that the students of NBCTs outperform their peers in other classrooms. Most recently, a 2012 study by Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project found that students of NBCTs in the Los Angeles Unified School District made learning gains equivalent to an additional two months of instruction in math and one month in English Language Arts.

National Board Certification is available in 25 certificate areas from Pre-K−12th grades. National Board Standards are written for teachers, by teachers, and accomplished teachers are represented at every level of the organization, from key staff roles to the NBPTS Board of Directors and the Certification Council, which guides policy and implementation of the certification program. This fall the National Board announced revisions to the certification process that will help ensure more students across the country have the opportunity to learn from Board-certified teachers. Learn more about the revisions here.