Turning Schools Around with National Board Certification: April 2011

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Today, National Board teacher certification is being used as a turn-around strategy to improve teaching and learning in low-performing schools.

Struggling districts and schools from California to Maryland and Arizona to Illinois are supporting their top teachers through the certification process and, when possible, hiring National Board certified teachers to fill vacant positions. Because these teachers have met high standards through study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review, schools and districts believe they will improve student learning; contribute to a new, positive school culture; and become powerful teacher leaders. Schools and districts are reporting that this strategy is, indeed, making a difference. Teachers with board certification remain longer in these tough schools, and students are making gains.

National Board certification now has become central to state policymakers’ discussions about how best to define and evaluate effective teaching. As many states grapple with implementing of legislation passed during the 2010-2011session and federal Race to the Top grant awards, some top researchers assert that the key elements used for National Board certification can and should be used as criteria in a new teacher evaluation system. The National Board’s standards have defined the highest level of teacher certification for years, and now can provide guidance for state policy. In fact, many states included National Board certification is a key component of their Race to the Top application.

Examples of Success

Chicago Public Schools, Illinois

Chicago Public Schools, located in the heart of the city, is the third largest urban school district. It serves primarily black and Hispanic students; 82 percent are considered low income.

Traditionally, Chicago Public Schools has struggled with student achievement, and a significant achievement gap stubbornly persists. Beginning in 2000, a powerful partnership between Chicago Public Schools--then under the leadership of current U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan--the Chicago Teachers Union, the mayor’s office and the Chicago Public Education Fund set its sights upon improving teaching quality and retaining effective educators with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement. The strategy included raising the number of National Board-certified teachers from 11 to 1,200 by 2008, in less than a decade.

The goal was reached with the help of generous funding from the Chicago Education Fund and the hard work and dedication of many teachers. As a result, the district has made significant gains. It has raised student achievement every year; nearly nine of 10 board-certified teachers remain in the district; more than half the district schools have at least one board-certified teacher; 60 percent of schools with board-certified teachers have at least 85 percent of students receiving free and reduced lunches; 85 percent of the district’s board-certified teachers work in schools where at least 85 percent of the students are of color; and 50 percent hold leadership positions within their schools.

Julius Corsini Elementary School, California

Julius Corsini is a Title I elementary school in Desert Hot Springs, California, serving primarily Hispanic and English language learner students. Before 2006, this was a failing school by all accounts: 50 percent to 75 percent of the staff resigned every spring; student absenteeism was second highest in the district; and student performance was in the lowest 10 percent of schools in the state.

In an effort to turn around this failing school, the entire faculty, including the principal, enrolled in either Take One! or full candidacy for National Board certification during the 2007-08 school year. Since then, the school has seen unprecedented success. Teachers now closely analyze their instruction and seek feedback from others for continued improvement. The school now holds weekly professional Learning Community meetings for coaching and sharing best practices. In 2009, the school was one of only four in California to exit Program Improvement Year 5 status. It met federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks for two consecutive years; significantly increased test scores; increased teacher retention to 100 percent; and increased parent participation from 25 percent to 90 percent.

“We used to be very individualized in our approach to teaching. Now we are working together to meet the needs of these struggling students. We are going from closed to open doors, and this collaborative spirit is making a big difference. That’s what we need for effective teaching and learning.”
Kiela Bonelli, Principal, Julius Corsini Elementary School

Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland

Montgomery County Schools is Maryland’s largest school district.  Students are 40 percent white, 23 percent black and 23 percent Hispanic; about one-third are considered low income. Although the district is located in one of the nation’s most affluent areas just outside Washington, D.C., pockets of low-performing, high-need schools and students exist.  About a decade ago, district officials developed a strategy to provide an effective educator and promote college and career-ready standards for every student.  The district provided incentives and support for teachers to become board-certified.  District leadership also created a partnership with the Montgomery County Education Association, the local affiliate of the National Education Association, to embed the National Board’s Five Core Propositions—what teachers should know and be able to do—into professional development, hiring and evaluation for all teachers.  The effort is showing results.  Student achievement has improved, and the achievement gap has narrowed in elementary school reading and math.  The district now has the highest graduation rate among large school districts in the nation.  Participation rates in Advanced Placement exams have increased.  Nearly 95 percent of national-board certified teachers remained in the district during the past five years. 

Mitchell Elementary School, Arizona

Mitchell Elementary School is located in Isaac School District in Phoenix. This school serves a low-income neighborhood with high crime rates, fewer than 25 percent of adults have a high school education, and 96 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.  In 2000, less than 34 percent of those enrolled completed ninth grade, and less than 22 percent graduated from high school.

As a result of these difficult working and learning conditions, teacher quality and retention has traditionally been very low.  In 2008, more than 60 percent of the teachers in the school decided to do all they could to make a difference—they committed to completing National Board certification to improve their teaching and equip them with the tools needed to turn around this impoverished, low-performing school.  They were determined to make a difference in their students’ lives. Although some teachers have completed the program and others are still working on it, students already are making progress, and collaborative professional learning community within the school is strong.   This unique story about the power of teachers is garnering attention nationwide.

Policymakers and education experts—from U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, and former Governor Bob Wise to education expert Barnett Berry—are paying close attention to this effort.

“Test scores alone do not determine effective teaching.  As an instructional coach, I have to look at the thinking that goes into teaching minute by minute.  Teachers must be consciously competent—we have to know what we are doing, how we do it, and why.  We must make existing teachers the best they can be through effective professional development, such as National Board certification.”
Daniela Robles, instructional coach, former Mitchell Elementary teacher

What is National Board Certification?

Since 1987, the National Board has offered a rigorous national certification process to create a cadre of highly accomplished educators. This voluntary program does not replace state preK-12 teacher licensure or certification. Instead, it offers a much more rigorous national teacher credential that recognized throughout the country.

The process to become certified can take from one to three years, and includes becoming familiar with standards in the teacher’s certificate area, reviewing content to prepare for assessment center exercises to demonstrate subject-matter expertise, and evaluating their own teaching practices as they prepare portfolio entries. The fee is $2500, plus a $65 processing charge. Once a candidate passes his or her assessments, the teacher becomes a National Board Certified Teacher. The certificate is valid for 10 years and can be renewed.

There are now more than 91,000 National Board certified teachers nationwide, with North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, California and Washington as the top five states with the most National Board Certified teachers.
Many states offer assistance with application fees, and many offer financial incentives for completion. For example, Mississippi currently offers a $6000 annual increase for the life of National Board teaching certificate, and North Carolina offers a salary 12% higher than base for the life of the certificate. States such as Illinois and New Mexico require National Board certification to achieve the highest level of state licensure, sometimes known as the mastery level, which provides for a higher salary.

Importance of teachers

Research has shown time and time again that teachers matter most to student achievement. One year with an effective teacher can bring significant gains for a struggling student, while one year with poor teacher can cause a student to stumble. That’s why policymakers at both the state and federal level have recently placed so much emphasis on effective teaching. Last year alone state legislators in at least 13 states passed legislation to ensure that teachers are improving student achievement. Again this year state legislators are considering significant reforms in recognition of the importance of teachers.

State Support for Board Certification

 

State

Fee Support 

Financial Incentives

 

Release Time

License Portability

License Renewal or CEUs

 

Total Number of Teachers*

NBCTs Certified in 2009-2010

Total NBCTs

% of NBCTs to Teachers

AK

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

7,927

7

120

1.5%

AL

Full fee pay for candidates who pass the state selection process

$4,450 annual increase

 

 

X

X

 

47,818

224

2,007

4.2%

AR

$2,500 for eligible first-time candidates

$5,000 bonus annually to any NBCT who continues to be employed in accordance with legislative provisions governing bonus eligibility

 

3 days

X

X

 

37,162

290

1,690

4.5%

AZ

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

54,696

88

769

1.4%

CA

 

Funding is provided for stipends to NBCTs who were approved for an annual $5,000 (four-year maximum) for teaching in a low-performing school before April 2009.

 

 

X

 

 

303,647

342

4,913

1.6%

CO

$750 for candidates on a first-come, first-served basis (temporarily suspended because of economic downturn)

$1,600 bonus for all NBCTs. An additional $3,200 for NBCTs in low- performing schools. (temporarily suspended due to economic downturn)

 

 

X

X

 

48,692

65

545

1.1%

CT

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

48,463

0

136

0.3%

DC

 

One-time $4,000 bonus

 

3 days

X

X

 

5,321

3

66

1.2%

DE

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

8,322

5

440

5.3%

FL

Some federal money available to teachers in selected high-need schools to pay half of fee

Annual salary bonus of up to 10% for 10 years only

 

 

X

X

 

186,361

273

13,532

7.3%

GA

Some federal money available to teachers in selected high-need schools to pay half of fee

 

 

2 days

X

X

 

118,839

18

2,604

2.2%

HI

Fee reimbursement of $1,500 paid upon completion of process; remainder of fee is reimbursable upon certification

Annual $5,000 stipend for life of certificate

 

 

 

 

 

11,295

44

284

2.5%

IA

 

Local incentives provided by a number of local school districts.

 

 

X

X

 

35,961

19

664

1.8%

ID

 

$2,000 annual increase for first five years (Not funded in 2010-2011)

 

 

X

 

 

15,148

6

368

2.4%

IL

State and federal funds combine to pay up to $2,000 per candidate as funds are available; no funding anticipated in FY 2011.

$3,000 annual stipend and mentor compensation as funds are provided.

 

 

X

X

 

135,704

771

4,692

3.5%

IN

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

62,668

5

149

0.2%

KS

State and federal funds combine to pay up to $2,000 per candidate as funds are available

By statute, districts are responsible for paying $1,000 to NBCTs for the life of the certificate

 

 

X

X

 

35,883

20

344

1.0%

KY

75% fee reimbursement upon certification

Annual $2,000 salary supplement for the life of the certificate; $400 for candidate preparation

 

5 days

X

X

 

43,451

316

2,156

5.0%

LA

$750 from Louisiana Department of Education grant

$5,000 annual increase for life of certificate, funded by districts

 

 

 

 

 

49,377

148

1,681

3.4%

MA

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

70,398

17

518

0.7%

MD

Two-thirds of fee for up to 1,000 candidates

State will match up to $1,000 offered by local school districts and $2,000 for NBCTs assigned to specific low-performing schools

 

 

 

X

 

58,940

302

1,976

3.4%

ME

 

No stipend for 2010, fixed funds for 2011-2012.

 

 

X

X

 

15,912

20

201

1.3%

MI

State and federal funds are combined to pay the application fee as funds are provided.

 

 

 

X

X

 

94,754

29

348

0.4%

MN

 

 

 

 

 

X

 

53,083

14

352

0.7%

MO

State and federal funds are combined to pay the application fee as funds are provided.

School district policy often uses the career ladder to award NBCTs up to $5,000 annually for the life of the certificate

 

2 days

X

 

 

68,015

73

670

1.0%

MS

Reimbursement of unsubsidized portion of fee upon completion for public school teachers

$6,000 annual increase for life of certificate

 

 

X

X

 

33,358

120

3,222

9.7%

MT

 

One-time $3,000 stipends for up to 20 NBCTs as funding is approved each biennium

 

 

X

X

 

10,467

7

92

0.9%

NC

$2,500 for eligible teachers as funds are available through a loan from the state at 3% interest rate to be repaid over three years, with no payment required in the first 12 months

NBCT placed on salary schedule that is 12% higher than base pay for life of certificate

 

3 days

X

X

 

109,634

2,277

17,957

16.4%

ND

50% of fee for up to 17 candidates

Annual $1,000 bonus for life of certificate

 

 

X

 

 

8,181

1

32

0.4%

NE

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

22,057

7

85

0.4%

NH

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

15,661

0

19

0.1%

NJ

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

114,713

13

211

0.2%

NM

 

Annual 1.5 program unit stipend at a variable rate, currently estimated at $5,800 for FY 2009-2010

 

 

X

X

 

22,825

92

578

2.5%

NV

Up to $1,250 fee reimbursement upon certification

5% annual salary increase for life of certificate

 

 

X

X

 

21,993

41

487

2.2%

NY

Up to $2,500 for eligible public school teachers

If school district applies and is approved by the state, an annual $10,000 stipend may be granted for three years to teach in low-performing schools and mentor new teachers

 

 

X

X

 

217,944

131

1,131

0.5%

OH

 

NBCTs meet requirements for lead rofessional licensure and are eligible for teacher leadership opportunities.

 

 

 

 

 

112,845

81

3,268

2.9%

OK

Fee support suspended for two years because of moritorium on National Board program

$3,900 annual stipend for current NBCTs for the life of the certificate.

 

 

X

 

 

46,571

225

2,820

6.1%

OR

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

30,152

6

243

0.8%

PA

Up to $1,250 for approximately 200 candidates

 

 

 

X

X

 

129,708

124

769

0.6%

RI

$750 available for approximately 50 candidates

 

 

 

X

X

 

11,316

33

417

3.7%

SC

$1,250 in federal funds available to pay half of fee.

$7,500 annual salary increase for life of certificate for candidates before July 1, 2010; $5,000 stipend after July 2010, capped at 900 candidates

 

 

X

X

 

49,941

498

7,784

15.6%

SD

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

9,244

3

74

0.8%

TN

 

Stipends by school districts only

 

 

 

X

 

64,926

71

484

0.7%

TX

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

327,905

83

627

0.2%

UT

 

 

 

 

X

 

 

23,657

21

204

0.9%

VA

 

Initial $5,000 award, with a subsequent annual award of $2,500 for the life of the certificate, contingent upon continued funding

 

 

X

X

 

71,415

184

2,180

3.1%

VT

 

 

 

 

X

X

 

8,766

3

124

1.4%

WA

State offers interest free conditional loan for $2,000 of the $2,500 fee

$5,000 annual bonus upon certification; NBCTs in challenging schools, as defined by the state, will receive an additional $5,000 annual bonus. Proposed two-year suspension in funding program. 

 

 

X

X

 

54,428

1,272

5,232

9.6%

WI

Reimbursement of fee-related expenses up to $2,000 in first year of certification

$2,500 annual grant upon application for subsequent nine years; additional $2,500 grant for NBCTs in high-need schools (60% free or reduced lunch) as funds are provided. Additional incentives also provided by local school districts.

 

 

 

X

 

59,401

101

783

1.3%

WV

Reimbursement of 50% upon application, and remainder upon certification, for up to 200 candidates; $600 toward retakes

Reimbursement of $600 for certification expenses; annual $3,500 supplement for life of certificate

 

 

X

 

 

20,209

86

580

2.9%

WY

 

$4,000 salary increase for each year as funding is approved each biennium

 

 

X

X

 

7,000

60

314

4.5%