So, What Signifies a Quality Teacher? An Examination of National Board Certification
October 19, 2020
Rigorous teacher preparation programs prepare educators to assume teaching and leadership roles in P-12 schools, nationwide. So, in the United States, what actually does signal a quality teacher? Is it school location? Is it educational levels? Is it test scores? The answer is: preparation! Teacher preparation is a continuum, it begins with a quality program of preparation and continues as teachers seek higher levels of preparation and attainment.
National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) exemplify quality teaching and aptly illustrate education as an esteemed profession. Teachers are trained to deliver content, recommended pedagogical practices, the psychology of teaching and learning, and non-cognitive measures such as dispositions; and the National Board Certification Process certifies that its candidates have met standards of practice at the highest levels. An NBCT signifies quality.
Board certification enables teachers to assume real-time leadership roles—such as mentoring, leading professional development efforts, and advocating for policy changes—leadership that encourages teachers to advance their careers while staying in the classroom. Unlike a random three-day training or micro-credential on how to be a leader, the National Board Certified Teacher process is rigorous and demanding, requiring reflective praxis and evidence of that practice. There are 25 different certificates available through National Boards.
Leading educational researcher, Linda Darling-Hammond, PhD, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University and founding president of the Learning Policy Institute, posits “measures of teacher preparation and certification are by far the strongest correlates of student achievement in reading and mathematics, both before and after controlling for student poverty and language status” (2000).
Darling-Hammond is the perfect spokesperson for teacher quality as past president of the American Educational Research Association and from 1994–2001 she served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, spearheading the 1996 report What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future.
Leaders in education - the teacher shortage is our crisis to solve. At LSU, we are fierce for preparing teacher leaders for the state of Louisiana. National Board Certification not only elevates our profession; it also keeps teachers in the classroom for their careers. Quality teaching means generations of student success.
Overview of National Board Certified Teachers
Based on the premise that school variables influence student achievement, the National Board’s process demands excellence and insight into the science of teaching. According to Peggy Brooks, NBCT, President and CEO of the national Board, the work of “the National Board is based on the belief that every child deserves to be taught by an accomplished teacher. When accomplished practice becomes the norm, the advantage will be significant, spreading beyond students and teachers to be felt by their communities, employers and society at-large)” (2020).
National Board's standards are based on "Five Core Propositions" and provide a reference that helps educators link teaching standards to teaching practice.
Five Core Propositions:
Teachers are committed to students and their learning
Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students
Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning
Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience
Teachers are members of learning communities
Board certification enables teachers to assume real-time leadership roles—such as mentoring, leading professional development efforts, and advocating for policy changes—leadership that encourages teachers to advance their careers while staying in the classroom. Unlike a random three-day training or micro-credential on how to be a leader, the NBCT process is rigorous and demanding, requiring reflective praxis and evidence of that practice. There are 25 differing certificates available through National Boards. Candidates for National Board Certification must complete four components: three portfolio entries, submitted online, and a computer-based assessment, which is administered at a testing center.
Teachers - preparation matters. The process of becoming nationally board certified not only enhances your leadership skills and demonstrates your personal commitment to excellence...it also means enhanced learning for students.
The LSU School of Education is proud that two faculty members, Drs. Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell and Alica Benton are current NBCTs. As teacher educators, they both stress the significance of experience and expertise when teaching the next generation of teachers, teacher leaders, and educational leaders. They advocate that teacher educators and educational leaders must maintain high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers and school leaders should know and be able to do. In Sulentic Dowell's and Benton's world-view of education, higher standards for teacher educators equates to higher standards for teachers, which means enhanced learning for students. In addition to Sulentic Dowell and Benton, the LSU Laboratory School, the pre-college arm of the College of Human Sciences & Education, boast a total of 23 educators who have earned National Board status. Among those are:
University Laboratory School National Board Certified Teachers
- Steve Babcock
- Michelle Blanchard
- Nichole Bonilla
- Christina Courtney
- Ellen Daugherty
- Frankie Day
- Debbie Dornier
- Adele Dufrene
- Tamara Empson
- Amanda Fourrier
- Lauren Eglin
- Carole Hannaman
- Kelly Kelly
- Sheri Loy
- Anne McConnell
- Valerie McConnell
- Amy Martin
- Angela Murray
- Candence Robillard
- Catherine Rosenfeld
- Frank Rusciano
- Deana Vicari
- Aimee Welch-James
*Note: list updated as of October 2020; if your name should be added please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What the Research Says...
According to a recent study conducted by Mathis & Saldaña (2020), a reason many teachers leave the profession is because of demoralization. The School of Education’s NBCTs Sulentic Dowell and Benton agreed stating, “when teachers are reduced to technicians in the classroom and required to follow narrow scripts and even narrower curricula, they abandon the profession they love. Teachers are not mere technicians, they are professionals, capable of making strategic, informed decisions about teaching. The National Board certification process reminds teachers of why they make instructional decisions and requires candidates to think deeply about instructional and curricular decisions.”
Several states have investigated the merits of NBCT. These studies provide further evidence of the benefits for NBCT as the certification impacts students outcomes:
- In 2008, the United States National Research Council a division of the National Academies published a report which stated that "Students taught by NBPTS-certified teachers make greater gains on achievement tests than students taught by teachers who are not board-certified."
- In 2008, the LA Unified Schools reported that “the difference in impacts [on student achievement] between [Board-certified teachers] and unsuccessful applicants was statistically significant.”
- In 2015, researchers in Washington State, postulated, “[Board-] certified teachers are more effective than non-certified teachers with similar experience.” Their findings suggest National Board Certified Teachers produce gains of up to “nearly 1.5 months of additional learning.”
- And a Mississippi study was also conducted that produced similar results: NBCTs outperform their counterparts.
"Teachers are not mere technicians, they are professionals, capable of making strategic, informed decisions about teaching. The National Board certification process reminds teachers of why they make instructional decisions and requires candidates to think deeply about instructional and curricular decisions." -- Sulentic Dowell & Benton
- Currently, the state of Louisiana boasts 2,772 NBCTs. According to Dr. Neil Mathews, Director of the School of Education, approximately 500 of those teachers were also trained in LSU School of Education programs. Clearly, being National Board Certified matters – quality teaching matters.
- To date, more than 110,000 teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have achieved National Board Certification through a voluntary process to certify teachers against those standards. To survey your state, this interactive map provides details about NBCTs and states that offer stipends for certification.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v8n1.2000
National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future. (1996). What matters most: Teaching for America’s future. Carnegie Corporation. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED395931
Written by: Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell, PhD
Dr. Margaret-Mary Sulentic Dowell is Professor, Literacy Leadership and Urban Education, School of Education, College of Human Sciences & Education, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. Her research agenda includes three strands focused on literacy in urban settings, specifically the complexities of literacy leadership, providing access to literature, writing, and the arts, and service-learning as a pathway to preparing pre-service teachers to teach literacy authentically in urban environs. Sulentic Dowell is a career educator, spending the majority of her 20 year public school teaching experience in Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, and most recently, serving public education as Assistant Superintendent of 64 elementary campuses in the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in Louisiana. Sulentic Dowell has been nationally and regionally recognized for her scholarship and teaching. In 2019, Sulentic Dowell received the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Light Up for Literacy award. She was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Contributions to Service-Learning in Higher Education from the Gulf South Summit (2014); she received the LSU Outstanding Faculty Service Learning Award (2013), she was named LSU Flagship Faculty (2012), and was recipient of the (LSU) College of Education’s Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award (2012). In addition she was named recipient of The Kenneth S. Goodman “In Defense of Good Teaching Award” in 2007. The University of Southern Mississippi named her an Academic Service-Learning Faculty Fellow (2001), and she was finalist for the International Reading Association’s Outstanding Dissertation of the Year (2000).