Professional Educators

National Board Certified Teachers: Making a Difference in WA Classrooms

By Jim Meadows, Ph.D., Washington Education Association. He works as an Instruction, Certification and Higher Education Specialist with the Washington Education Association. In his current role, he supports educators seeking National Board Certification, oversees professional development activities, advocates for commonsense teacher quality policy, works with online learning policy and serves as a liaison with educator preparation programs.

The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), based at the University of Washington, recently released a paper encouraging questions about the state’s investment in National Board Certification – specifically for our most challenging schools. With state revenue forecasts down and K-12 education budget cuts looming, the CRPE report uses contradictory, limited, and flawed data to undermine one Washington State’s most successful ongoing education reform efforts.

The paper does its best to raise uncertainty about investing in accomplished teaching in high-poverty schools at a time when all things education are on the chopping block, but the attempt is built on a foundation of limited and incomplete research and there are fundamental flaws in the work when viewed alongside more comprehensive studies.

Washington State Board of Education study from June of 2010 used a high-quality analysis of comprehensive data sets over three years (2007-8, 2008-9, & 2009-10), and included comparison groups. The study found:

  • Retention rates of NBCTs working in challenging schools are the same or higher than NBCTs statewide and higher than the other teachers in challenging schools.
  • NBCTs in challenging schools have stayed in their school from one year to the next at rates greater than other teachers in challenging schools, and greater than or equal to NBCTs statewide. The challenging schools bonus appears to be a significant factor in retaining NBCTs in challenging schools .
  • When asked about factors contributing to staying at their school, more than three quarters (79 percent) indicated the challenging schools bonus significantly or moderately contributed to their decision to stay.
  • In Year One, 89 percent of the NBCTs were already located in a challenging school, while 10 percent moved from a non-challenging school to a challenging school. In Years Two and Three, an even larger proportion of NBCTs in challenging schools stayed in the same challenging school from one year to the next (92 and 94 percent, respectively).
  • The percentage of NBCTs from non-challenging schools who transferred into challenging schools in year 1, 2 and 3 was, respectively: 10.2%, 7.2% and 4.2%)

CRPE did not consider other important factors affecting teacher decisions about transferring to challenging schools, including the impact of the weakened economy, limited open teaching positions amidst massive budget cuts, and uncertainty tied to new federal and state school improvement initiatives.

While the SBE Study noted some demographic shift of NBCTs from non-challenging into challenging schools, the logical focus in districts across the state has been to grow National Board Certification within challenging schools. The state has seen such dramatic interest and success with National Board Certification in these schools – which usually have the least resources and the greatest teacher mobility.

The Seattle School District has seen a 550% increase in the number of NBCTs since 2006, mostly in the district’s most challenging schools. There has been a dramatic increase, as well, in the number of teachers of color seeking and attaining National Board Certification – with the majority teaching in challenging schools. The CRPE report doesn’t acknowledge the importance of investing in National Board Certification as a tool for improving teaching and learning in hardest-to-staff schools.

Washington State is at a crucial juncture in its support for National Board Certification and accomplished teaching in challenging schools. The CRPE report is a thinly-veiled political move to undermine the progress made nationally to professionalize teaching.

Will  Washington and other states continue on in its trajectory as a national model for improving teacher quality or will it undermine one of its great policy successes? The Washington Education Association reiterates its support for the National Board Certification process as the highest quality measure of accomplished teaching and the need to continue state support for base and challenging schools incentives.

Washington policymakers need to put this CPRE paper in context: it distracts from our students in challenging schools who most need accomplished teachers. At best, the CPRE paper does reinforce a growing consensus that the legislature needs to fund a high-quality, non-partisan and non-interest-based study of the impact National Board Certification has on improved student learning, teacher mobility and retention, and teacher professional growth and leadership.

Visit WEA’s Facebook page for WEA National Board Certified Teachers and WEA’s website for National Board policy updates and action.

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