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.