Watching the reactions of teachers on my Twitter feed as they learned whether they had achieved National Board Certification this year brought wonderful memories of my own certification experience. I was in the generation of NBCTs who labored to complete the entire process in a year, and alternately hugged and cursed the blue shipping box. Like other major life events, I remember exactly where I was when I received my notification: dancing in front of a computer at the Internet café during the 2001 National Council of Teachers of English convention.
The National Board and the Board Certification process have gone through a long, sometimes painful, growth process. During my tenure on the Board of Directors, there were hard conversations and tough decisions, but what I remember most is the fierce intensity, particularly of the teachers, to see the vision live. At the heart of that vision has always been the National Board Standards, and the center of the Standards are the Five Core Propositions. The Standards—developed by teachers, for teachers—reflect the best we know and can do to educate all our children.
Over the 25+ years of its work, the National Board has attracted and benefitted from some of the best minds and talents in the field of education. Hundreds of outstanding teachers, researchers, and policymakers have contributed to the National Board process as members of the Board of Directors, as volunteers on councils and committees, as writers and reviewers, as scorers, as staff, and as candidates for certification. The National Board has profoundly changed both the teaching profession in this country and the national conversation about education, yet the organization itself is, paradoxically, one of U.S. education’s best kept secrets.
Education and teaching have changed in many ways since the National Board started. Most teachers no longer enter the profession through a single pathway, work in one school for 30-40 years, and then retire. National Board had to adapt to the changing demographics of the teaching force and the new work-life realities of teaching. Board certification had to become viable for teachers working in urban, rural, public, private, virtual or blended schools, in all subject areas and levels – and in configurations yet to come. The new National Board certification process has put the opportunity to become a certified, highly accomplished teacher within reach for more of today’s teachers across an ever-widening field.
More important to me, however, is what has not changed about the process: National Board Certification advances our profession by focusing on students’ learning (not just student achievement), and teachers’ performance along the range of our professional work. The predominantly performance-based certification process itself honors the complexity and humanity of teachers and students.
There is, of course, still important work to do.
For example, National Board friends and critics alike have long expressed concern over lower certification rates for black candidates. I’m hopeful that the redesigned process provides new tools to address the challenges black teachers have identified as particularly problematic. Among these changes, the number and length of written submissions have been streamlined; entry instructions and scoring requirements are more focused and clarified. The new component-based model also allows for more school-based or other cohort-based professional learning. Early reports indicate teacher leaders at the state and local levels are already using these features to create better mentoring opportunities for all candidates.
The National Board and the certification process are essential to my long-term dream for the teaching profession in this country:
- Board Certification (as in other professions) should be the expectation not the exception.
- Make National Board Standards the bar against which teaching practice is continually evaluated at all levels.
Thus, I’m encouraged that the Educators Rising (formerly Future Teachers Clubs) are using National Board Standards and videos of Board-certified teachers in their program to attract and inspire next generation teachers, as are more teacher preparation programs.
Every student deserves National Board Certified Teachers.