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National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Validity, Candidate Support, Master's Degree Programs, Candidate Performance, Assessing Accomplished Teaching

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) was formed in 1987 as a response to A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (1983), published by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, and its challenges to improve the quality of teaching and learning in U.S. schools. NBPTS has a three-part mission: (1) to establish high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do; (2) to develop and operate a national voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet these standards; and (3) to advance related education reforms for the purpose of improving student learning in schools in the United States.


With standards and assessments in place to reach 95 percent of the nation's teachers, research has focused on the validity and the effects of National Board Certification processes. In 2000 Lloyd Bond, Tracy Smith, Wanda Baker, and John Hattie examined the consequential validity of the NBPTS standards and assessments. They sought to locate demonstrable differences between National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and non–National Board Certified Teachers (non-NBCTs). These researchers created a sample of sixty-five teachers who completed all parts of the assessments and who received their scores on these assessments. These teachers were divided into two naturally formed groups, 31 NBCTs and 34 non-NBCTs.

For the next school year, these teachers were observed teaching in their classrooms and interviewed about their teaching. The researchers collected samples of the teachers' lessons, samples of their students' work, and of a variety of other writing assignments given to the students. The researchers interviewed three students in each teacher's classroom and conducted surveys of all children in each classroom. The researchers found that on the thirteen attributes of teaching effectiveness they had identified, NBCTs outscored non-NBCTs. The scores of the NBCTs were significantly higher, statistically, than the scores of the comparison group on eleven of the thirteen attributes. These findings offer firm foundation for the claim that NBPTS assessments actually measure highly accomplished teaching. It should be noted that all teachers scored rather high on all thirteen attributes, suggesting that just completing the entire assessment process enhances a teacher's skills as a practicing professional.

Candidate Support

Candidate support programs are offered by school districts, teachers organizations, and education schools to guide teachers through the National Board Certification process. In 2001 M. Cramer and J. Cramer conducted focus group interviews of 81 National Board candidates who participated in a support program. The researchers identified three major attributes of successful support programs. First, effective support programs require a knowledgeable and dedicated facilitator. Second, because of the unique demands placed on candidates, the support program must include a structured and sequenced curriculum. Third, creating a learning community with an ethos of egalitarianism in a high-stakes assessment environment seems to advance teacher growth and development.

In 1999 Iris Rotberg, Mary Futrell, and Anne Holmes surveyed candidates who had completed a local support program and found unequal access to information concerning National Board Certification. According to their report, the materials available from the National Board could be more explicit in their expectations. They also called for more venues for providing such information.

For a 2000 doctoral dissertation, D. B. Bohen compared the perceptions of candidates who participated in a cohort support program with those who did not. Both the cohort and noncohort candidates found the NBPTS certification process a powerful professional development experience that transformed their views on teaching. Both groups believed that completing the NBPTS processes in a structured and collegial environment enhanced their professional development. Bohen concludes that teachers seem to welcome the opportunity to study their teaching and the teaching of others in such group settings where deep inquiry and reflection are valued and encouraged.

Master's Degree Programs

Monographs by Peggy Blackwell and Mary Diez (1998) and Diez and Blackwell (1999) outline in clear and direct language the opportunities to use the NBPTS standards to redesign master's degree programs for teachers who want to remain in the classroom. The program designs they offer include these notions of inquiry, reflection, and using the classroom as a laboratory for learning.

In 1999 Karen Dawkins and John Penick surveyed 300 teachers in North Carolina to assess their beliefs and attitudes about a proposed master's degree program that was aligned with the NBPTS core propositions. The respondents expressed support for content and processes that directly target the capacity to improve teaching and daily interactions with children. The respondents did not dismiss the philosophical dimensions found in most graduate programs for teachers; however, they wanted them focused on professional development and improving teaching skills.

Candidate Performance

Data collected from the administration of NBPTS assessments indicate that the percentage of candidates achieving National Board Certification increases annually. In the 1999–2000 cycle, 52 percent of all first-time candidates achieved National Board Certification. However, within these data are differential achievement rates among racial and ethnic groups. In a series of studies, Bond and his colleagues inquired into the sources of adverse impacts on achievement rates in an effort to establish a set of conditions that would reduce their effects. These studies have included an external panel review of the standards and assessments, which found no bias inherent in either, and a study of the interaction of assessors and candidates, focusing on the factor race plays in these interactions. This study also yielded no evidence of systematic bias. In studying minority candidates who did not achieve National Board Certification but who retook exercises and who achieved National Board Certification on the next attempt, Bond and colleagues found that these candidates felt underprepared for the amount of reflective thinking required in the assessments, suggesting the need for better teacher preparation.

In 1998 Laura Onafowora studied six African-American candidates who did not initially gain National Board Certification and found that these candidates might not write well extemporaneously. She found the entries of these African-American candidates tended to focus on philosophical themes, such as instilling "survival imperatives" in their students, rather than on their teaching.

Assessing Accomplished Teaching

Results of studies on the reliable and valid measurement of accomplished teaching, as reported in separate 1998 articles by Bond and Richard Jaeger, offer insights into the process of scoring multidimensional representations of teaching. They highlight the need for new calculations of validity and needed research on measuring performance. In 1997 Drew Gitomer reviewed five major challenges faced in the design, development, and implementation of the NBPTS assessment process. These challenges were:(1) defining scoring; (2) handling a broad range of disciplines and contexts; (3) resolving bias issues; (4) interpreting unfamiliar representations of content; and (5) identifying the cut-score.

Changing the Profession and Advancing Reform

In a commissioned study of National Board Certified Teachers, Yankelovich and associates surveyed all NBCTs concerning the effects National Board Certification has had on their ability to change the profession. NBCTs reported, in significant numbers, that they are undertaking new roles and responsibilities in their schools and communities since gaining National Board Certification, including mentoring other teachers, coaching National Board Certification candidates, and serving as clinical faculty in teacher education programs.

The National Board is pursuing its mission to set the benchmark for accomplished teaching. It has overcome political, professional, and psychometric obstacles, and it has spawned a national inquiry into teacher quality. However, it is still a long way from having the kind of research evidence that solidifies its base. By creating the broad categories used to review the current literature, it is hoped further research will occur.


BLACKWELL, PEGGY J., and DIEZ, MARY. 1998. Toward a New Vision of Master's Education for Teachers. Washington, DC: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

BOHEN, D. B. 2000. "How Teacher Candidates View and Value the Certification Process of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards." Ph.D. diss., George Mason University.

BOND, LLOYD. 1995. "Unintended Consequences of Performance Assessment: Issues of Bias and Fairness." Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 14 (4):21–24.

BOND, LLOYD. 1998. "Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and the Assessment of Accomplished Teaching." Journal of Negro Education 67 (3):242–254.

BOND, LLOYD. 1998. "Disparate Impact and Teacher Certification." Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education 33 (3):410–427.

BOND, LLOYD; SMITH, TRACY W.; BAKER, WANDA K.; and HATTIE, JOHN A. 2000. Accomplished Teaching: A Validation of National Board Certification. Arlington, VA: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

BUDAY, MARY CATHERINE, and KELLY, JAMES A. 1996. "National Board Certification and the Teaching Profession's Commitment to Quality Assurance." Phi Delta Kappan 77 (2):215–219.

CARNEGIE FORUM ON EDUCATION AND THE ECONOMY. 1986. A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: Carnegie Forum.

CRAMER, M., and CRAMER, J. 2001. Candidates' Perceptions of Effective National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Support Programs.. Conway: Arkansas State University.

DAWKINS, KAREN, and PENICK, JOHN. 1999. Teacher Preferences for an Advanced Masters Degree Based on NBPTS and NCATE Standards. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, College of Education.

DIEZ, MARY, and BLACKWELL, PEGGY J. 1999. Achieving the New Vision of Master's Education for Teachers. Washington, DC: National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

GITOMER, DREW. 1997. "Challenges for Scoring Performance Assessments in the NBPTS System." Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

JAEGER, RICHARD M. 1998. "Evaluating the Psychometric Qualities of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards." Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education 12 (2):189–210.

NATIONAL COMMISSION ON EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION. 1983. A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

ONAFOWORA, LAURA. 1998. "Measurement Consequences Reconsidered: African American Performance and Communication Styles in the Assessment for National Teacher Certification." Ph.D. diss.

ROTBERG, IRIS C.; FUTRELL, MARY HATWOOD; and HOLMES, ANNE E. 2000. "Increasing Access to National Board Certification." Phi Delta Kappan 81 (5):379–382.



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