Category Archives: National Board Certification

NBCT Policy Summit: Building a Professional Continuum

If you walk into a doctor’s office and learn that your physician is board certified, this designation communicates something to you…even if at first blush you aren’t sure what it means. In the field of medicine, board certification is voluntary, is assessed against established industry standards (based on specialty as well), and is an widely accepted indicator of professional capacity. From the American Board of Medical Specialties website:

When you choose a doctor who is Board Certified by one of the ABMS Member Boards, you can be confident he or she meets nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge, experience and skills to provide high quality care in a specific medical specialty. Board Certification goes above and beyond basic medical licensure.

Sounds much like National Board Certification for educators.

There is ample research indicating that teachers who have achieved National Board Certification produce enhanced student learning equivalent to between one and two additional months of instruction, particularly with students who are typically underserved.

Education funding in Washington is certainly in dire need of improvement, and one aspect of this involves compensating teachers in a way which (1) draws high quality candidates into the profession and (2) recognizes and values the research-supported professional growth that NBPTS certification represents.

As a result, dozens of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) convened in SeaTac this last Saturday at the 2016 NBCT Policy Summit. These educators were called together by WEA, CSTP and OSPI in order to do what Washington Ed legend Jeannie Harmon says is the best way to change education for the better: Get our best and brightest educators together, tell them the problem to be solved, then get out of their way.

Currently, teacher salaries are funded separately from the incentive program aimed at fostering NBPTS certified teachers: Our base salary allocation model (SAM) includes increases in compensation aligned with advanced degrees and acquisition of clock hours for learning, and but does not include NBPTS certification…which of the three (degrees, seat time, or NBPTS certification) is the one with the greatest body of research supporting an increased impact on student learning. The current incentives include a yearly bonus for being an NBCT, plus an additional bonus if you are an NBCT working in a “challenging school,” both of which are funded outside our SAM. The result? The funding is tenuous, and the incentive toward and recognition of NBPTS certification is likewise ever on the chopping block.

The recommendations will be presented in full soon (as of this writing it’s been barely 24 hours since the end of the summit), but on the policy issue related to NBPTS certification, the recommendation was loud, clear, and simple: Just as a Masters degree and a Doctorate represent lanes of professional growth on our salary schedule, so should National Board Certification. Parallel to this recommendation were a variety of policy recommendations around revenue generation for the state (in order to fully fund education and meet the legal requirements of the McCleary ruling). There was also significant talk about developing and compensating new and varied career paths for teachers who don’t aspire toward being a program director or principal, particularly since there is recent evidence of the positive impact of teacher leadership.

Hidden within all this is a quiet evolution of what the professional continuum for teachers might look like. In medicine the pursuit of board certification, while still voluntary, is much more integrated into the vision of how a professional physician learns, performs, and refines their craft over their career. National Board Certification is heavily studied and has proven to be a form of professional advancement that has a positive impact on students. It only makes sense that this step be codified into our compensation schedule alongside the other (still voluntary) professional steps such as advanced degrees.

Having a Voice

I didn’t want to get up at 6 am on Saturday.

I didn’t want to catch a 7:05 ferry.

I didn’t want to get turned around in the dark and rain and end up going north on I-5. Then spend 20 minutes wandering around downtown Seattle trying to find my way to south I-5.

Sputter, sputter, sputter.

But, oh, NBCT teachers, if you ever receive an email invitation to an NBCT Policy Summit and wonder if you should consider going, I am here to tell you—it was definitely worth it.

After we all went through check-in and ate breakfast and had a chance to mingle, the morning panel greeted us. There were five people on the panel but three in particular stuck out to me, probably because they represented the three organizations that sponsored the summit:

The general message? Speak up. Stand up. Be heard. Make an impact.

But the specific message that reverberated back and forth from one panel member to the next was that teachers need to find their passion and focus on that passion.

Policy Summit Mural by Taryl Hansen

Policy Summit Mural by Taryl Hansen

I immediately took that message to heart. As soon as we were dismissed to mid morning snack time, I introduced myself to Gil Mendoza. I gave told him I’m on the Executive Board for WAETAG (Washington Association of Educators of Talented and Gifted). He replied enthusiastically about what a great organization it is and how lucky we are to have it in our state. I gave him my card and said, “If you ever need someone with a background in gifted to serve on a committee please keep me in mind.” He grinned—he’d just talked about how OSPI looks for teachers willing to serve on committees. Now he had a volunteer! He handed me his card and asked me to contact him again by email.

I’ve been teaching gifted in this state since 1989, and I’ve been on the board of WAETAG since 2008. But being in the room at the Policy Summit gave me a different level of access than I’d ever experienced before.

Breakout sessions met before and after lunch. Participants met in groups of about eight to discuss one of two issues:

  • A—Second Tier Licensure (Professional Certificate) or
  • B—National Board Incentive Structure

At our table in one of the B groups we started with the fact that we love having a bonus and, for those who get it, love having the extra bonus for challenging schools. What we don’t like is that fact that any bonus is a line item. It’s too easy to delete from the budget. For a long time those were our biggest discussion points.

Then I spoke up. I’d come to the Policy Summit with a slightly different point to make. As I told my table, I’ve been teaching for 38 years, and I’m not ready to stop. I hit 16 years’ experience a long, long time ago. I earned my MA in 1982 and I hit my 90 units beyond an MA when I was in my 50s and a long way from retirement.

The ONLY way for me to get any additional money was to become National Board Certified. So I got my NBCT in 2012. I plan to keep teaching until my certificate expires in 2022.

Having a salary schedule plateau early means veteran teachers can’t keep up with the rising cost of living, especially health costs.

So I suggested it would be beneficial to have some kind of step system that allows for longevity. For example, what if we got a bonus for the initial NBCT and an additional bonus at each renewal?

That led to a long examination of my idea. People brought up snags I hadn’t foreseen. They improved the original suggestion by adding a requirement that teachers who get the extra bonus demonstrate leadership—which spawned another tangle of questions. Who defines leadership? How many hours a year? How would the extra work be documented? How would OSPI track the paperwork? We even tossed around ideas for how much of a bonus although finally most of the questions were labelled TBD.

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, we not only kept my idea on our list of five “high leverage” ideas to submit to the group at large.  In a surprise move, the members of my group voted my suggestion as the number one on the list because it

  • encouraged teachers to pursue NBCT sooner rather than later
  • encouraged teachers to take on leadership roles after completing their NBCT
  • encouraged professional growth, not just professional development

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Then came the mid afternoon snack. (Nasue warned me that her goal was to have each of us gain five pounds before the day was over!)

Our last keynote address came from Peggy Brookins, president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She spoke eloquently about those who surreptitiously do things for teachers but without teachers—for example, people who write education laws without bringing teachers to the table. Once again, she encouraged us to make our voices heard.

I came to the Policy Summit wanting to be heard. I hoped my peers would listen and understand and maybe empathize with the salary concerns of older teachers.

I left feeling empowered.

So think about coming yourself next time. And meanwhile, think about your passion and the difference you can make.

 

Second Tier Certification in Washington: A Year of Reckoning

Conroy DuringMy youngest son recently announced he was thinking about becoming a teacher. “What are all the steps you have to go through?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, “First you need to get into college. Then you’ll spend your first two years taking general courses designed to give you a rounded education. After that you’ll apply to the college of education at your university. They’ll want you to have pretty good grades and they’ll make you take a basic skills test to make sure you have a decent foundation of knowledge and skills.”

“That sounds reasonable,” he said.

“And once you get into the program you’ll focus on classes that train you how to teach. You’ll learn about child development, lesson planning, classroom management and how to sequence instruction. You’ll also spend a lot of time out in classrooms observing and teaching small groups and short lessons. You’ll write a lot of reports on your observations and reflections. During your last semester you’ll take over someone’s classroom and teach full time. During all of this you’ll get lots of feedback and help from the teachers you work with as well as the faculty from your college.”

“Is that it?” Continue reading

Read Those Standards!

CaptureI recently celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary, and as it happened, my wife and I attended a wedding three days later. While watching the wedding my thoughts naturally turned to the differences between a wedding and a marriage. It’s one thing to promise everything to your spouse; it’s another thing altogether to renew that promise year in and year out.

Those same feelings returned the following week while working with a massive group of National Board candidates. I was a trainer at Jump Start, WEA’s pre-candidacy program for teachers pursuing National Board certification.

One of the many activities through which we lead our candidates is deceptively simple. We have them read their standards. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is, after all, (as the name implies) grounded in standards. In fact, the NB spent the first five years of its life focused on writing those standards – 25 sets in all – so that teachers would have something rigorous to which to aspire.

The process of certification is essentially providing evidence that one’s practice aligns with those standards. Therefore it’s incumbent upon each candidate to thoroughly understand those standards.

And because those standards aren’t going to read themselves, we make them read their standards, closely and thoroughly.

But here’s the thing: It’s impossible to read a set of standards and completely retain them. After all, a set of National Board standards is roughly the size of a thick magazine. With no ads or pictures.

So what I try to do each summer is re-read my standards. Front to back. And I usually do. It’s not what I’d call great literature, in the order of Faulkner, Twain or even Richard Brautigan, but it’s not bad. In fact, you might even call it inspirational.

So I’m challenging you to read your standards. Set aside a few hours before school gets crazy, go online, download them and go for it. You’ll be glad you did.

Think of it as a renewal of vows. To your profession and to your students.

National Board Revises its Renewal Process

 

pinBy Tom

Earlier this month the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced a new process for NBCTs to renew their certification. For the last decade or so, renewal consisted of submitting a Profile of Professional Growth (PPG), a four-part portfolio in which NBCTs provide evidence that they’ve continued to grow as a teacher in accordance with the National Board standards.

Beginning in 2017, new NBCTs will have to renew their certification through a process called Maintenance of Certification (MOC). Those of us who have already certified will continue to renew using the PPG process, at least through the next cycle. The complete rollout chart is available on the National Board’s website. Beware, though; it’s complicated.

The MOC is a very different process than the one with which we’ve become familiar. Continue reading

The Important Practice of Vulnerability

Lindsey Stevens, NBCT, is a regular blogger for Puget Sound ESD’s CORElaborate blog , where this piece first appeared, and is republished here with the permission of both the Lindsey and Puget Sound ESD.

vulnerability

I just spent another amazing weekend at the National Board Certified Teacher Leadership Conference. This time it was at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson Washington and it was amazing and beautiful. The surroundings were wonderful but even more that the atmosphere, I always leave appreciating what I have gained from this inspiring gathering of professionals. The biggest takeaway I have form this weekend is that I need to continue to be vulnerable in my practice to really be a leader and to impact student learning.

At the conference we were greeted first by the fabulous Katie Taylor. Katie is the Director of Teacher Leadership and Learning at the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP). If you have not checked out or been in contact with this wonderful organization you should find out what they are all about. At any rate Katie was helping us to think about the traits and qualities of teacher leaders in her opening session. During her presentation we were asked to complete the sentence, “Teachers lead when we…” I sat and thought about that for quite a bit before I could fill it in. What do I really do that is true inspiring leadership? It’s not necessarily when I run a training, or when I plan a meeting. I realized that I truly do my best leading when I am vulnerable, when I make my practice, my trials and my tribulations transparent. This is really the only way to ask others to show me what they are doing and to be honest. I really think that vulnerability might just be the most important disposition for any teacher, especially teacher leaders to embrace.

Katie had us examine our leadership in relation to an article from Educational Leadership “Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders” by Cindy Harrison and Joellen Killion. In this article the authors point out the following ten roles for teacher leaders: resource provider, instructional specialist, curriculum specialist, classroom supporter, learning facilitator, mentor, school leader, data coach, catalyst for change and learner. In the activity we were identified how we were and could be any of these roles. Later I began to think about how these roles as teacher leader and my personal insight into vulnerability when hand-in-hand. Each of these roles take a certain level and different kind of vulnerability.

Continue reading

NBCT Reflections

A year into being an NBCT, I realize that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Going into it, I thought it would be a great way to improve my practice, gain the required professional certification in my state, and not least significantly, get a bonus for all of the hard work. There was also the somewhat less tangible prize that seemed to revolve around status and professionalism.

I first heard the call to “lift up the profession” in a presentation NBCT Jeff Charbonneau gave last spring. He spoke about teachers building up teachers and schools through positive talk. This past weekend I attended the Leadership Conference held by CSTP in Stevenson, Washington where I began to learn how to turn that talk into action.

Reflecting after the conference, I realize that National Board Certification is mainly about lifting up the profession. It is absolutely about making teachers more effective in the classroom, but it is also about empowering teachers to lead outside of the classroom. That less tangible piece I mentioned above is taking shape as I begin to participate in the NBCT network. I have a very different idea of what my role can be than I once did.

The journey that started with attending JumpStart and then working through and completing National Boards seems to have been but a prelude. As I come to the top of one small mountain I realize just how much farther the road goes. Traveling this road is a little daunting, but now I know I’m surrounded by a community of varied and vibrant NBCTs and organizations that support teachers.

Thanks to collaboration between WEA, OSPI, and CSTP, more and more teachers from Washington are achieving National Board Certification. If you haven’t already, consider following their lead – talk to an NBCT, you might be surprised what you find out. If you’ve taken that first step, take another – read the Teacher Leadership Skills Framework developed by CSTP. If you are farther down the road, tell your story. What doors has it opened up for you?

Accomplished Teachers, Congratulations!

Good teachers get results: students grow, learn, improve…

Throughout this week, teachers all over Washington are getting a different sort of “result”: They learn the status of their TakeOne or NBPTS candidacy portfolio. My hope is that, no matter the result, these good teachers will have learned from this process.

For me, earning my National Board Certification changed two things about me as a professional. First, it helped me understand the importance of reflective practice. Now, as I work on my renewal this year, the near-decade of reflective practice that was cultivated during my years of candidacy has become integral to how I work. The process encouraged me to think deeply and always keep “impact on student learning” at the absolute center of every decision I make.

Second, earning my NBPTS certification opened many, many doors of opportunity for professional and personal learning and growth. I have connected with organizations and individuals that otherwise I would have never known, all because I became a part of this professional network of accomplished teachers. I’ve developed skills as both a classroom teacher and a teacher leader, and this has gradually helped me find a place in my system where I feel I am not only impacting my own students’ learning, but also the learning of my colleagues’ students.

I was the first in my building to earn my National Board Certificate. The reaction from some of my peers was a surprise, since this was a “new” thing to our school culture. When the principal came over the intercom at the end of the day to announce I had certified, one (jaded and consistently negative) teacher even cornered me to say “So you think you’re a better teacher than I am now?”

My response is the one I’ve stuck to: “No, I am a better teacher than I was.” It is not about sorting and comparing teachers; this process is about helping teachers grow.

Congrats to all of you new NBCTs and those who continue your candidacy. Take a moment to reflect not only on what you’ve accomplished, but what you learned as well.

Teachers and Their Unions

PropanetankBy Tom

Most gas stations sell propane. But they usually keep the propane tank as far as possible from the main building. To me, that says something. It says, “Even though our entire operation consists of simultaneously selling gasoline, cigarettes and Bic lighters to anyone with a car; that propane tank scares the hell out of us, and we don’t want to be anywhere near it.”

That weird mix of trust and suspicion also seems to apply to teachers and their unions. According to a recent survey, three out of four Americans trust their children’s teachers, while only half believe that teachers unions have a positive effect on schools. That seems weird to me, since teachers union are – by definition – simply a group of teachers; the same teachers that people trust when they aren’t in a group. I understand what’s going on, of course; when teachers are working in their classrooms, they’re doing things for children: teaching them, keeping them safe, etc. But when teachers get together in a group – a union – they sometimes ask for things like fair compensation and job security, and that’s when the trust disappears. People don’t like it when teacher unions act like other unions. That’s when they accuse teachers of not acting in the best interests of the students.

There are two problems with that. First of all, unions are supposed to act on behalf of their members. That’s their essential purpose. They were invented in order to secure collective bargaining agreements with employers. They sit down across the table from administrators and bargain. And at some point in the conversation, the administration will insist on less money for more work and less job security. The union, on the other hand, will ask for higher wages in exchange for less work and more job security. That’s what every worker – with or without a union – is supposed to do in regards to their employment conditions. Teacher unions, as it turns out, have become pretty good at it, and people don’t like that.

But here’s the other thing: despite the fact that teacher unions act like unions because they’re supposed to, our unions actually do a lot more. I spent a couple days earlier this week in Denver, where this year’s NEA Representative Assembly is being held. Before the convention started, I attended an event called “Empowered Educators Day.” It was awesome. The entire day was focused on ways in which the NEA is working to improve teaching and learning. National Board Certification, of course, was a big part of the conversation. The National Board has had the support of the NEA and the AFT from the get-go, and it’s safe to say that it wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for the support of the teachers unions.

On this Fourth of July I’m holding my head high. I’m a proud member of a great union. A union that works hard for its members and works just as hard for our students.

Boom.

Want innovation in the classroom? Get teachers involved in Policy

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by Maren Johnson

I spent the weekend in Washington DC at the Teaching and Learning 2014 Conference. It was dazzling. Famous and thought provoking speakers, incorporation of art and music, huge diversity in education viewpoints and experience.

With all the hubbub over the big names at the conference, what I'm heading home thinking about is a session led by a middle school science teacher from Washington state. From the small town of Cheney, no less.

Teacher Tammie Schrader's session was titled, "Coding in the Classroom." I went into the session expecting to learn a bit about coding itself, and perhaps a bit about how to use coding to teach concepts in life science. I came out of the session thinking about innovation and education policy.

Tammie started out the session by introducing herself and her classroom programs. She has been facilitating student coding in her science classes for several years now. That, itself, is innovative, but not extraordinarily unusual.

Then Tammie started talking about education policy. My ears perked up. What was going to be the tie-in here? I've been to sessions on innnovative instructional methods. I've been to sessions on education policy. I have rarely been to a session incorporating both.

Tammie's point? She wanted to do cutting edge things in her classroom. In order to be free to do these things, she needed to be released from some of the usual considerations of what might be expected in a classroom. There were a few non-negotiables, however. She would still need to assess; she would still need to show student growth. She wanted to assess and show student growth in a way that would fit her classroom. The solution? Get involved in policy. Tammie has done this, in a big way, at state and national levels.

I thought to myself, "This woman's message needs to get out there." So there I was, like the paparazzi, taking photos and tweeting. Not that Tammie isn't already well known in many education circles, but I wanted to do my part!

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The policy involvment has allowed Tammie's innovative classroom work to become systemic. Tammie has worked on state assessment committees and on designing frameworks for Career and Technical Education. She helped write the state science test. Because she knows what students are expected to do, she's not ignoring the state science standards or the Next Generation Science Standards. She's not letting all of that go. She's just helping to shape policy and then use it in a way that helps herself and other teachers be innovative in their classrooms.

Tammie has spent time talking to policy makers at all levels. Having a teacher involved in these areas allows education policy to encourage innovation as opposed to stifling it. Want innovation in the classroom? Get teachers involved in policy.