National Board Certification for the Masses: What Would that Look Like?

Imagine a teaching force of accomplished educators who are reflective about their practice, knowledgeable about the content they teach and how best to teach it to their students, and willing to look deeply at themselves through data and videos to improve their craft. Current research done in several states tells us that the students in National Board Certified Teachers’ classrooms gain an average of one month’s ELA instruction and two months’ math instruction over a year’s time compared to the students in non-NBCT’s classrooms. One study was done in LA Unified. Another was done in Gwinnett County, Georgia. There is also research on the positive gains of students in the classrooms of NBCTs of low-income and minority students.

So what would it look like if from the time every undergraduate began an education program, the Five Core Propositions of National Board became part of the language –if from the beginning it was understood that the end result was that educators needed this Board Certification. If we were talking about being accomplished teachers from the start of our programs and learning that this would be the end result –that the highest achievement that a teacher can achieve–NBCT– was the expectation, much like it is for a doctor, could we build an even stronger profession in the way the medical profession has?

For many teachers reflection comes naturally. These teachers go back at the end of the day and ask themselves what went well and what could go better. They figure out why they didn’t get through to that one student who was taught that lesson in three different ways and still didn’t grasp the concept. Those are the teachers who take responsibility when students don’t understand. These are the teachers who understand that good classroom management starts with good relationships. But what about those who aren’t as reflective? For those of us who went through the National Board process, consider what seeing ourselves on video for the first time did for our practice. What would that do for education overall if every teacher went through this process?

A nation of reflective, accomplished practitioners; stronger teacher-student relationships; better student engagement; and therefore a more professional profession? Could National Board Certification be one way to strengthen our profession?

The Medical Model: What Can Educators Learn from It?

A historic event in the world of education is about to happen: for the first time in history a group of educators will engage in a conversation with physicians to look at the parallels in these two professions. These groups will talk to see what we can learn from one another. What most people may not realize is that until 1910 and the publication of the Flexner Report and then with the concept of medical residency programs becoming the norm, medicine was not much of a profession –not like it is today. But since that time, I think we will all agree that the medical profession has gotten it right! They have come together, trained physicians, organized residencies where after intense schooling, they go through professional mentoring programs for three to seven additional years. From the beginning of their schooling, doctors begin preparing for medical boards.

What can we as educators learn from all this? EVERYTHING! By streamlining education preparation programs, we can better prepare future teachers. Once teachers complete university programs and student teaching, they need residency schools –much like doctors enter residency hospitals. Consider what your first year of teaching was like. Most of us had informal mentoring programs at best; this is causing a huge teacher-turn-over rate. In residency schools first-year teachers can be mentored by the most accomplished of teachers who will already work there. By valuing these accomplished teachers and teacher leaders, we can elevate our profession to just that –a true profession.

This change will take some time, but it needs to happen. We must build a great profession for our children. Board certification and residency can become the norm for education. It will begin with one conversation: between some educators and some doctors. Where will it go from there?

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