National Board Certification Process is Revised

Great news! National Board has just announced changes to the certification process that will surely entice more candidates to pursue National Board Certification. In an era of growing need for instructional leadership (teacher leaders) and master teachers, these are welcome changes to what is truly the ultimate measure of teacher competency. Perhaps we will one day have a system of accountability that doesn’t rely on student test results but rather the far more intensive and valid measure of National Board Certification.  Check out the news release from NBPTS.

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National Board Certification and the Teaching “Profession”

Want to be qualified to practice law in this country? Do the college coursework and pass the Bar Exam. Interested in working in the medical field as a physician? Complete a three to seven-year internship following your coursework and pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). Want to teach children? See what your state requires for licensure. In some states, a bachelor’s degree will do just fine while in others, an advanced degree is required. It varies where you reside.

The gripe against teaching as a “profession” is, among other things, the ease in which one can be certified to teach. There are a multitude of pathways prospective teachers can go through to get licensure, which is one reason not all states recognize out-of-state licensure. A lack of rigor in some state’s certification requirements are another issue. However, if you want to practice law or medicine, you will have no problem working anywhere in the country as long as you’ve got your degrees and passed the national exams.

Does the lack of a national certification process impact teaching as a profession? Ask your family and friends what they think. Are teachers held to the same level of respect and honor as doctors? Lawyers? Do teachers quake in fear at the prospect of passing their certification exams as do lawyers and doctors? Let’s face it, for teaching to get the respect it deserves in this country (teaching has certainly garnered great respect in other countries), then we need to raise the bar on certification requirements. Some states have already begun the important work of teacher certification reform through the Teacher Performance Assessment, however the capstone measure is National Board Certification.

Last week’s  lead story in the local/regional section of The Post Star read, Teachers earn top state credential, beneath which were six pictures with names of the honored teachers (Kudos to Carol Geruso, Mary Kruchinski, Sheila Morris, Colleen Rayno, Stephanie Ruel, and Jessica Spellburg.). Honored because these exceptional individuals had earned National Board Certification–not an easy task. Less than 50% of educators “achieve” National Board Certification their first time through, and for many, the process takes two full years to complete. The task is challenging with four portfolio entries and a rigorous examination. From the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards website:

“Your portfolio of classroom practice consists of four entries:

  • One classroom-based entry with accompanying student work
  • Two classroom-based entries that require video recordings of interactions between you and your students
  • One documented accomplishments entry that provides evidence of your accomplishments outside of the classroom and how that work impacts student learning

Each entry requires some direct evidence of teaching or school counseling as well as a commentary describing, analyzing, and reflecting on this evidence. 

The online assessment portion of the National Board Certification process asks you to demonstrate your content knowledge in response to six exercises developed and designed by practicing professionals in your certificate area. You will have up to 30 minutes to respond to each of the exercises.”

Wow, that is what we’re talking about! Assessments that are rigorous and comprehensive, and portfolio entries that require teachers to describe their work, analyze and assess the impacts on students, and reflect on next steps!

In many schools and communities, school teachers are seen and treated as professionals. However, if want teachers to be valued as professionals in all schools, then we need to push for a national examination process that adds rigor and relevance to the certification process. We have national measures in law and medicine, it’s now time for the same standards of rigor for teaching. Oh, and we also need to incentivize the process of pursuing National Board Certification.

Celebrating A Great Teachers Academy

This past Friday was the culmination of a unique 28-hour professional development experience involving teachers and administrators from three distinctly different schools in size and setting. The event went off spectacularly. One administrator commented, “I’ve been through plenty of professional development before, but this was not something administrators and teachers typically receive.” Other participant comments were: “I learned how to write quality essential questions and use them every moment of the day as I work with students. I now constantly think in terms of essential questions and the desired results when teaching or planning;” “This Academy has helped me see how Common Core State Standards, Teacher Evaluation, assessments, and Student Learning Objectives fit together in the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR);” and, “I’m thinking about using performance assessments, which is something I never did before when planning math lessons.” There are more data yet to be analyzed, including a post-survey set which we will use to revise the academy for our next iteration. Meanwhile, today’s feedback suggests the Academy was effective, which is something we all had hoped for when we first came together last October to explore an idea for bringing coherence to Race to the Top for teachers and school principals.

In a previous blog entry, I wrote about the perceived disconnect by educators regarding Race to the Top deliverables. As a colleague of mine commented, the layers of reform ranging from Common Core State Standards, Response to Intervention, Data-Driven Instruction, and Annual Professional Performance Standards are akin to a seven-layer cake with each distinct and separate from one another. Not the message or perception we want educators and administrators to have in this busy period of reform. Ironically, my co-facilitator and I were thinking the same thing when we invited a core group of National Board-Certified Teachers (NBCT) to explore the possibility of developing an Academy that revealed the interdependencies within Race to the Top while also cultivating teacher and principal leadership. Preliminary participant comments suggest we realized our goals.

To gain both credibility and professional rigor for such an academy, we sought NBCTs and teacher leaders who walked the talk, balancing the daily challenges of classroom instruction with instructional leadership within and outside their buildings. Self-directed professionals sought out as experts because of their pedagogical skill sets and knowledge of what matters in this era of reform. We hit the jackpot with four NBCTs representing secondary ELA, primary reading, special education, and middle level mathematics. We also got financial support from the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center, which has done so much for educators over the past three decades. At a preliminary meeting, we brainstormed what the region’s educators and principals needed to successfully implement RttT components. In particular, we were looking for ways to cultivate teacher leadership. Over the course of a many meetings, we resolved our focus on six modules and described the program as follows:

A 28-­‐hour, six module pilot program integrating teacher artifacts, classroom video analysis, and cognitive coaching for participants to develop teacher leadership capacity by fully understanding the integrated nature of New York State Teaching Standards, Danielson Frameworks, Annual Professional Performance Review process, and Student Learning Objective protocols described in New York State’s Race to the Top Program. Master teachers will facilitate sessions over a ten-­‐week period, and participants will develop knowledge products that include a participant portfolio, videotaped classroom instruction with analysis and reflections, an Understanding by Design unit aligned with the Common Core Learning Standards for literacy, and individual participant goals using the Student Learning Objective format. Educators and building principals will also observe and rehearse the best practices and artifacts shared by Academy facilitators across the six modules. Each participant will receive a set of books, binder, and flash drive containing best   practices and program modules.   

Our pilot was ambitious, and we did not have time for the creation of videotaped classroom instruction we described in the description. However, we accomplished so much more than what could be described on paper. The participants’ attitudes and comfort level regarding Race to the Top underwent a signficant shift over the past three months, and our team is eager to launch a second edition this summer at the end of July. However, the summer Academy will not be a pilot but instead will be open to all teachers and principals interested in becoming teacher and principal leaders in Race to the Top components. After all, anything is possible when you bring a highly talented group of teacher leaders and NBCTs together.

PS. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms.