National Board Certification for Teachers: Does it Work?

NCSL Resources


While many schools, districts and individual teachers have claimed success with board certification, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and education researchers have been eager to confirm and measure this success. Legislators, too, are curious about whether this is a wise investment, especially during these fiscally challenging times.
Researchers have investigated the following questions and found mostly positive results.




Research Question


Research Reports

Does National Board certification develop effective teaching? 


National Board certification helps change teachers’ formative assessment practices and their instruction in general. Even teachers who start at a lower skill level end up with better teaching practices that those who did not go through the process.


Sato, Wei and Darling-Hammond, 2008[i]



The process improves teacher professional development by enhancing reflective practice, establishing a professional discourse among teachers, raising standards for performance, and facilitating collaboration.

Park, Oliver, Johnson, Graham and Oppong, 2007[ii]


The process is a transforming experience for many teachers, and they often apply in the classroom what they have learned. The process improves teachers’ ability to improve student learning.

Lustick and Sykes, 2006;[iii] Rotberg, Futrell and Lieberman, 1998[iv]

Does certification improve student achievement? Does it narrow the achievement gap?

Students of board-certified teachers outperform students of non-certified teachers on achievement tests. The positive effect is even greater for minority students.

National Research Council, 2008;[v] Clotfelter, Ladd and Vigdor, 2007;[vi] Goldhaber and Anthony, 2004;[vii] Cavalluzzo, 2004[viii]


Students of board-certified teachers have stronger writing abilities, are better able to comprehend and integrate complex classroom materials, better understand concepts, and are more capable of abstract thinking than students of non-certified teachers.

Smith, Gordon, Colby and Wang, 2005;[ix] Bond, Smith, Baker and Hattie, 2000[x]


Students of board-certified teachers make learning gains equivalent to an extra month in school.

Vandeboort, Amrein-Beardsley and Berliner, 2004[xi]


Mixed results were found is two prominent reports, although board certification showed positive effects in subject and grade-specific areas.

Sanders, Ashton and Wright, 2005;[xii] Harris and Sass, 2007[xiii]

Does certification improve teacher retention?

Board certification was found to keep the most highly accomplished teachers in the classroom. In Florida, nearly 90 percent of these teachers remain in teaching, far exceeding the average 60 percent retention for teachers statewide. In Ohio, 52 percent of board-certified teachers surveyed report they plan to stay in teaching as long as they can, compared to 38 percent of non-certified teachers. South Carolina reports similar results.

Florida Department of Education, 2008; Sykes, et al., 2006[xiv]

Does certification equip teachers for traditionally low-performing students and schools?


In 2008, 42 percent of board-certified teachers were teaching in schools eligible for Title I funding. Nearly 46 percent taught in schools where more than 40 percent of students were eligible for free and reduced lunches.

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2008


The National Board’s Targeted High-Need Initiative and Take One! programs are increasing board-certified teacher diversity and impact in high-need schools. A large majority of teachers in high-need schools report that Take One! improved the quality of their instructional planning and implementation by enhancing their approach to analyzing and reflecting on their teaching practices.

Learning Point Associations, 2008

Do board-certified teachers teach in low-performing schools?

This examines the distribution of board-certified teachers in the six states—California,  Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. Except for California, board-certified teachers are not equitably distributed across schools that serve different populations of students.  In five of the six states examined, poor, minority, and lower-performing students are far less likely to benefit from the teaching of a board-certified teachers than are their more affluent, majority, and higher-performing peers.  


Humphrey, Koppich and Hough, 2004[xv]

Does certification create teacher leaders?

Board-certified teachers give input on curricular decisions, organize professional development opportunities, chair departments, engage with the community, reach out to parents, and serve as a faculty voice to policymakers and other stakeholders.

Sykes, et al., 2006[xvi]


Board-certified teachers take on leadership roles that include mentoring and coaching others and developing programs aimed at improve student learning.

Freund, Russell and Kavulic, 2005;[xvii] Yankelovich Partners, 2001[xviii]

[i] M. Sato, R. C. Wei, and L. Darling-Hammond, “Improving Teachers' Assessment Practices Through Professional Development: The Case of National Board Certification,” American Educational Research Journal 45, no. 3 (2008): 669–700.


[ii] S. Park, et al., “Colleagues’ Roles in the Professional Development of Teachers: Results from a Research Study of National Board Certification,” Teaching and Teacher Education, 23 no. 4, (May 2007): 368-389.


[iii] D. Lustick and G. Sykes, “National Board Certification as Professional Development: What are Teachers Learning?” Education Policy Analysis Archives 14 no.5, (2006): 1– 43.


[iv] I. Rotberg, M. Futrell and J. Lieberman, “National Baord Certification: Increasing Participation and Assessing Impact,” Phi Delta Kappan 79 (1998): 462-466.

[v] Milton D. Hakel, Judith Anderson Koenig, and Stuart W. Elliott, eds., Committee on Evaluation of Teacher Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Research Council of the Academies, Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced Level Certification Programs (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2008).

[vi] Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen G. Ladd, and Jacob L. Vigdor, How and Why Do Teacher Credentials Matter for Student Achievement? National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Educational Researcher Working Papers (2007); 

[vii] Dan Goldhaber and Emily Anthony, Can Teacher Quality be Effectively Assessed?” (Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 2004); 

[viii] Linda Cavalluzzo, Is National Board Certification an Effective Signal of Teacher Quality?, (Alexandria, Va.: CNA Corporation, November 2004);

[ix] T. W. Smith, et al., An Examination of the Relationship Between Depth of Student Learning and National Board Certification Status (Boon, N.C.: Office of Research on Teaching at Appalachian State University, 2005). 

[x] L. Bond, et al., The Certification System of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: A Construct Validity Study (Greensboro, N.C.: Department of Education Resaerch Methodology and Center of Educational Research and Evaluation, University of North Carolina, September 2000). 

[xi] L. G. Vandevoort, A. Amrein-Beardsley and D. C. Berliner, “ National Board Certified teachers and Their Students’ Achievement,” Education Policy Analysis Archives 12 no. 46 (2004): 7-38.

[xii] W. L. Sanders, J. J. Ashton, and S. P. Wright, Comparison of the Effectives of NBPTS Certified Teachers with Others Teachers on the Rates of Student Academic Progress (Cary, N.C.: SAS Institute, 2005). 

[xiii] Doug Harris and Tim Sass, The Effects of NBPTS-Certified Teachers on Student Achievement, National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in educational Research Working Papers (2007); 

[xiv] G. Sykes, et al., National board Certified Teachers as an Organizational Resource (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2006).

[xv] Daniel C. Humphrey, Julia E. Koppich, and Heather J. Hough, Sharing the Wealth: National Board Certified Teachers and the Schools that Need Them Most. (Menlo Park, Calif.: SRI International, November 2004);  


[xvi] G. Sykes, et al., National board Certified Teachers as an Organizational Resource (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2006).

[xvii]M. Freund, V. K. Russell, and C. Kavulic, A Study of the Role of Mentoring in Achieving Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (Washington, D.C., the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, 2005).

[xviii] Yankelovich Partners, Leading from the Classroom: Highlights from the 2001 NBPTS National Board Certified Teacher Leadership Survey (Chapel Hill, N.C.: Yankelovich Associates, 2001);