Sunday, May 31, 2009

Is National Board Certification in NC Worth Saving?

Legislators in North Carolina have proposed eliminating the payment of the assessment fee for eligible NC educators to pursue National Board Certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This would eliminate approximately $4 million from the state's education budget. (This figure varies each year due to the fluctuating numbers of NC educators that choose to take advantage of this payment and due to the increased cost from NBPTS of the assessment fee.)

Over 14,000 educators in North Carolina have achieved National Board Certification (NBC) and the status of National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT). Some of those educators have retired; some of them have moved to other states; some of those educators are no longer in the classroom, having moved into administration or having chosen to get out of teaching altogether.

Critics of NBC say that the results generated in the classroom by students taught by an NBCT is no different from those non-NBCTs. Other studies have proved otherwise, stating that students of NBCTs show greater gains on end-of-grade tests.

So is National Board Certification in NC worth saving?

In my almost 2 1/2 years as the NBC Coordinator for the state, I was amazed at the extremes surrounding the certification process. First, there were those strong, intelligent, highly motivated, passionate professionals who saw National Board Certification as an incredible, personal professional development opportunity, a chance to really reflect and analyze instructional strategies and improve classroom instruction and ultimately impact student achievement.

And then there were those educators who signed up with only the dollar signs in their eyes. For NC pays a 12% salary differential to those educators who achieve National Board Certification and meet the guidelines under the statute.

But with recent budget shortfalls and economic depressions and the impending education cuts, the conversation is starting about putting National Board Certification on the chopping block. While many of my colleagues will argue that the state should not eliminate the paying for the assessment fee to pursue NBC (currently $2500 per candidate), I am going to step out on the proverbial limb.

I don't think the state of NC should be footing the bill for the assessment fee for teachers to pursue National Board Certification. (Okay, let the whining and shouting begin!)

Look, here's how I see it. My professional growth is my professional responsibility. I should not have to rely on another entity (state government) to fund my pursuit of advanced degrees and advanced certifications. I DO believe that we should get compensated (you know, a raise, bigger salary) for those advanced degrees and certifications, but that's another conversation for another blog entry perhaps.

While the number of candidates who did not fulfill the responsibilities of the promissory note that they agreed to with NC was a small percentage of the total who pursued certification, it has amounted to millions of dollars in lost funds over the past 12 years, something I only understood once I saw the NC NBC budget up close and personal. Teachers who did not complete the process (turn in the entire portfolio and take the assessment exercises) or who did not teach the year following the initial certification process were expected to repay the state the assessment fee that was paid on their behalves. Some people took care of their obligations; others did not.

Too me, it's those others that ruin it for us all, and make me take the strong stance of saying, NO! to payment of the assessment fee.

Yes, there were educators with legitimate sob stories: illnesses, injuries, RIFs, accidents. And yes, the repayment of the assessment fee to the state of NC has been waived for some folks who were able to document and plead their cases over the years. But so many others just failed to complete the process, choosing not to "read the fine print" of the promissory note. Wake up, folks! A promissory note is when you promise to do something in return for a favor. The state gave you $2,500 (the current cost of pursuing National Board Certification) and the state asked only two things from you. (You didn't even have to achieve certification, just complete the tasks!)

All candidates have the opportunity to withdraw from the process for whatever reason, too. To me, those educators without legitimate reasons for failing to comply with the promissory note (or failing to withdraw from the process) lack the professionalism and high standards that ARE National Board Certification. NBC is about accomplished teaching and accomplished teachers.

Some of my colleagues will argue that the state paid assessment fee gives every teacher an opportunity to pursue this advanced certification. Since I do agree that the process was incredible, personal professional development, shouldn't every educator have the opportunity to experience that same growth through the NBC process? But is every educator capable of being an accomplished teacher and of achieving National Board Certification?

I think that each educator should have to put her own money where her mouth is and prove herself by achieving National Board Certification before the state of North Carolina recognizes that advanced certification with a 12% differential.

Yes, National Board Certification in NC is worth saving, but not the expense of the assessment fee.

No comments: