Two New Studies Add to the Evidence Base on Board-Certified Teachers’ Impact on Student Achievement

ARLINGTON, Va. —  Two independent studies recently released provide new evidence that, on average, the students of National Board Certified Teachers learn more than students in other classrooms. Such evidence held from elementary through high school grades; across reading, math and science subject areas; and in varied districts and states across the country. The studies, the first conducted in Washington state by researchers Dr. Dan Goldhaber and James Cowan, and the second in Kentucky and in Chicago Public Schools by the nonprofit CNA Corporation under the leadership of Dr. Linda Cavalluzzo, build upon more than a decade of research that has established similar student achievement gains due to students being taught by Board-certified teachers.

The positive impact on student learning in both studies was statistically significant. For example, the Washington state study estimated that students of Board-certified teachers gained the equivalent of nearly one-and-a-half months of additional learning in middle school math classrooms and approximately one-to-two additional weeks of learning in elementary school and in middle school reading classrooms.

“From small rural schools to large urban schools, these studies confirm the incredible value of having a National Board Certified Teacher delivering powerful instruction to America’s students,” said Dr. Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board. “A recent PDK/Gallup Poll found that more than 80 percent of Americans believe teachers should achieve Board certification in addition to being licensed. This research brings new evidence to the mandate for making Board certification the norm in teaching, as it is in other professions from medicine to engineering.”

The research in Washington state included students in grades 4-8 using state standardized tests in math and reading. The CNA study in Kentucky and Chicago included four years of individual student records in grades 10 and 11 and used the ACT and the PLAN test (a preliminary precursor to the ACT exam) in math, reading and science.

“The bottom line from our study is that it adds validation to the claim that Board-certified teachers are, on average, more effective than other teachers. Board certification appears to be among the teacher credentials most consistently associated with student learning gains,” say researchers Goldhaber and Cowan. Goldhaber is director of the Center for Education Data & Research (CEDR), director of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) and a vice president at American Institutes for Research (AIR). Cowan is a researcher at CEDR.

Goldhaber and Cowan also found that teachers who achieve Board certification on their first attempt produce more than a month of additional learning gains compared to those teachers who pursue but never achieve Board certification. In addition, they found that the score a teacher receives on the assessment—in addition to whether or not a teacher achieves certification—is predictive of gains in student achievement.

“Indeed, possessing National Board Certification is not only a signal that teachers are highly effective, but the certification process itself is a reliable mechanism to distinguish between teachers who are more and less effective, said Dr. Cavalluzzo at the CNA Corporation. ”These findings make Board certification a useful tool in building a highly effective teaching workforce.”

The CNA study found statistically significant evidence that Board-certified teachers have positive impact on student achievement across locales, test types and subject areas. In addition, through direct measurements of teaching practices through classroom observations, the CNA study also found that applicants for Board certification had higher ratings of instructional quality compared to non-applicants.

These two new studies add to the decade of evidence supporting the impact of Board-certified teachers on student learning and achievement. The National Research Council reached a similar conclusion in 2008 in its comprehensive review of studies of National Board Certification to date. In 2012, a pair of analyses published by Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project found that the students of Board-certified teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District and in Gwinnett County, Georgia, outperformed their peers by approximately two months in math and one month in English Language Arts, based on gains in student test scores.

Nationwide, more than 110,000 teachers have achieved National Board Certification through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process similar to Board certification in fields such as medicine. Many states and districts offer financial incentives for teachers to pursue certification as a means to improve student achievement.