Congressional Forum Weighs Benefits of “Medical Model” for Teacher Preparation

WASHINGTON — Nineteen National Board Certified Teachers travelled from 14 states to Capitol Hill today to meet with their members of Congress who are Board-certified physicians. Together they engaged in a forum exploring ways in which our country’s system for preparing teachers could be vastly improved if it was made to be more similar to graduate school and training in the medical profession. Members of both parties and their aides were planning to take part in the discussion hosted by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

“As a Board-certified orthopedic surgeon, I’ve seen how Board certification improves the medical profession and helps doctors have the skills they need to help people. This same model can also serve as a strategy for transforming the teaching profession,” said Sen. Barrasso. “Expanding Board certification for teachers is a way we can strengthen the field of education and ensure our students receive the highest quality of education.”

National Board Certification is a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process similar to Board certification in medicine. To date, more than 106,000 teachers have achieved Board certification. Numerous studies have shown that that the students of Board-certified teachers outperform their peers in other classrooms on achievement tests.

“Depending on the specialty, nearly 90 percent or more of doctors in America are Board certified, compared with just over three percent of teachers,” said Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board. “Too few teachers attempt Board certification because states and the profession do not expect or require it. We need to raise that expectation from day one of teacher preparation. But the buck cannot stop there—we must continue to provide novice teachers with the support not only to pursue certification, but to succeed on their first attempt.”

To help achieve this vision, the National Board is working with higher education partners and school systems in New York, Tennessee and Washington State to pilot ATLAS, an online library of video case studies created by Board-certified teachers. Used in teacher preparation programs, the ATLAS cases serve as a way to expose pre-service teachers to real-life examples of how accomplished teachers think and act in the classroom in different scenarios.

In a recent op-ed published in the Hechinger Report, Thorpe raised the idea of redirecting $2.5 billion in federal Title II funds toward the creation of medical-style residency programs for teachers. Currently the funding is used to pay for reductions in class size and conventional professional development; neither has been proven to have a significant or sustainable impact on student achievement. By contrast, the federal government spends nearly $57 billion annually to fund medical training and residency programs.

One of the teachers who came to the forum was Mauro Diaz, a Board-certified science teacher from Casper, Wyo. A U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Classroom Fellow, Diaz established the Wyoming Education Summit as a platform for Board-certified teachers to help shape the state’s education reform agenda.

“In medicine Board certification is a seal of approval that’s widely regarded by the public and the profession as a legitimate measure of quality,” said Diaz. “That’s what Board certification is for teaching. Our elected leaders can help ensure that it is recognized and supported so that every student and teacher can benefit.”