I tend to find that a lot of conversations around education reform focus on the work we have left to do instead of celebrating the progress we’ve already made. But a couple weeks ago in Frankfort, there were a lot of reasons to celebrate. 3,601 reasons, as a matter of fact.
That’s how many National Board Certified Teachers are currently serving Kentucky’s students, good for eighth in the nation. That prompted Governor Matt Bevin to declare February 20th as “National Board Certified Teacher Day” in the Bluegrass, and man, what a day it was. Newly-certified teachers gathered for a ceremony in Frankfort where they met with legislators, education experts, and even Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt.
In my book, they’ve earned their right to celebrate. As Board-certified teacher Peggy Brookins puts it, “This is an accomplishment for the teachers, but I can’t overstate the impact it will have on students. NBCTs have an oversized impact on student learning and these teachers, 70 percent of whom teach in high-needs Title I schools, are working with students who need them most. Every student deserves a teacher whose practice meets the highest standards in the field.” National Board Certified teachers do exactly that, and trust me, we’re noticing.
For a teacher to become Board-certified, they must first go through a rigorous application process. And when I say rigorous, I’m not playing around: According to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, the process takes approximately 400 hours of focus and dedication. Several colleagues of mine who have gone through the application process say that just navigating the application process alone made them better teachers, whether they were successful with actually getting the certification or not. Believe what you will, but evidence speaks for itself.
In the Bluegrass and beyond, we’re finding that students of Board-certified teachers perform better academically than students of other teachers. The difference is so stark, in fact, that Kentucky offers a $2,000 annual raise for teachers who earn their National Board Certification, and lots of universities are counting components from the application toward graduate degree credits because it’s so rigorous.
Teaching is a complicated art to master, but the application process forces candidates to really think critically about all the odds and ends that truly make for great instruction. Prospective Board-certified teachers must demonstrate a thorough knowledge of their content, prove their commitment to students and establishing outstanding learning environments, and reflect deeply on how they monitor and foster student learning － each of these are vital to quality teaching.
Despite the long and stressful road to certification, the concept that drives National Board Certification is simple. When we hold high expectations for our teachers, they turn around and hold high expectations for their students. It’s better for everyone involved, and it makes for better schools.
Photo by Lead Beyond, CC-Licensed.