National Board Certification

A growing movement in school reform

11/20/2009  |  JOLYNN E.TARWATER, NBCT

This fall, a select group of educators began the new school year as National Board Certified Teachers, recently joining the ranks of tens of thousands of accomplished teachers throughout the nation who are changing the learning culture of the classrooms they work in.

These exemplars of the teaching profession have achieved National Board Certification, a voluntary assessment program designed to develop, recognize and retain accomplished teachers.

Currently, there are nearly 74,000 National Board Certified Teachers nationwide. North Carolina leads the nation in NBCTs with 14,211 followed by Florida, 12,670 and South Carolina, 6,498.

As an NBCT, I have seen first-hand how National Board Certification has evolved from individual teachers achieving this milestone into a larger systemic movement that is amplifying the “voice of teachers .heard loud and clear earlier this year, for example, was from Cindi Rigsbee, an NBCT from North Carolina after she became a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

“National Board Certification is critical for our nation’s schools and communities,” said Rigsbee. “I feel strongly about teaching as a profession. It is important that our communities value teachers as quality professionals who make a difference in the lives of children.”

In the most rigorous and comprehensive study to date about National Board Certification, the highly respected National Research Council of the National Academies affirmed the impact of this growing movement. The NRC report observed that National Board Certification has a positive effect on student achievement, teacher retention and professional development.

National Board Certified Teachers make up about two percent of the nation’s teaching force, yet they take Board Certification,” says Duncan. “When you see your best teachers continuing to learn and grow, and taking on things like National Board Certification, they’re really walking the walk. And the difference that makes in our students’ lives is extraordinary.”

Administered by the Virginia-based National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Board Certification is achieved through a performance-based assessment that typically takes one to three years to complete. While state licensing systems set basic have recognized the value and leadership of National Board Certified Teachers by awarding financial incentives to teachers who achieve National Board Certification. States with higher proportions of National Board Certified Teachers (for example in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida) show decisive NAEP test score improvements — especially in mathematics.

“In these tough economic times, we thank policymakers at all levels who continue to embrace and support National Board Certification, a proven pay-for-performance approach that keeps America’s best teachers in the classroom,” said Joseph A. Aguerrebere, NBPTS president and chief executive officer. “These individuals know that an investment in National Board Certification for teachers reaps benefits for students, not only today, but for many years to come, as they succeed in tomorrow’s workplace and contribute to tomorrow’s economy.”

Aguerrebere added,“Just as doctors and accountants gain professional certification beyond licensure by demonstrating their expertise, National Board Certified Teachers have met rigorous standards and are among the nation’s best.”

To help more teachers benefit from the high standards set for National Board Certification, cohorts of educators are using Take One!, a component of National Board Certification to build school-based learning communities focused on high-need schools.

A unique offering from NBPTS,Take One!® can be used as stand-alone professional development or as an initial step in becoming a candidate for National Board Certification. Participants prepare and submit one pre-selected video portfolio entry from any of the 25 current certificate areas of National Board Certification. A teacher can later transfer the score if he or she pursues National Board Certification.

Independent evaluations as well as the schools themselves are reporting a strong learning culture, best-practice sharing and improved student test scores.

Additionally, advanced certification for principals and teacher leaders are two new programs under development by NBPTS. Both build on the National Board’s 20-year highly successful program, National Board Certification for teachers and school counselors. Effective principals, working with teacher leaders are instructional and organizational change agents who have a critical impact on school, teacher and student success.

This positive learning environment, championed by these new certifications, advances student achievement and supports the recruitment and retention of accomplished teachers. NBPTS is collaborating with a growing list of the nation’s leading national and philanthropic organizations. The plan calls for rolling out the new principal certification within the next several years.

Jolynn E. Tarwater is a teacher-in-residence for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards focusing on NBCT programs and initiatives, including NBCTLink (, the social networking Web site for NBCTs. For more information about National Board Certification and NBPTS, visit
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