This post is written by NCTE member Justin Parmenter.
Since the inception of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), North Carolina has been a leader in the number of teachers achieving National Board certification. However, the past several years saw an 85 percent drop in the number of certificates awarded in our state. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) may provide an opportunity for North Carolina to reverse this unfortunate trend.
Time and again, studies have shown evidence of increases in student achievement in classes taught by teachers who have made it through the rigorous National Board certification process when compared with non-certified peers. My personal experience with this process was that it was less about showcasing my existing teaching talent and more about becoming a much more reflective teacher. Working through the process of earning my National Board certificate made me more intentional about how I thought about my students as learners and how I planned and conducted lessons. As a result, my teaching became more engaging and student centered, and I saw positive results in student and parent feedback, grades, test scores, and Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) data.
To encourage teachers to achieve certification, North Carolina began awarding scholarships to pay for the process in the early 1990s. When I applied for a National Board certificate in 2006 as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher, I was responsible for only the $65 registration fee–not the daunting $2,500 cost of certification. Many other teachers in North Carolina took advantage of this opportunity as well, pushing our state to number one in national rankings, where it remains today despite recent decreases.
The recent decline of National Board certification rates in our state came with the economic crash of 2008. To cut costs, the 2009 General Assembly converted the scholarship to a loan, effectively ending significant financial support for teachers pursuing certification. Around the same time, teacher salaries were frozen. As a consequence, the number of teachers earning National Board certificates fell 85 percent over the next three years. NBPTS has worked to better accommodate teachers by reducing the cost of certification to $1,900 and allowing teachers to work toward certification over three years rather than completing it in one year. (This new process began in school year 2014–2015, so it’s too early to say what the impact will be on long-term certification numbers. The National Board reports there are currently more than 13,000 candidates working through the new three-year process.)
The Every Student Succeeds Act–which passed last year–offers a glimmer of hope to North Carolina teachers who would like to earn their National Board certificate but simply cannot afford to do so. The law requires schools to “increase the number of teachers . . . who are effective in improving student academic achievement” and provides $2.5 billion in Title II funds to make that happen. Ninety-five percent of these funds are going to school districts, along with unprecedented flexibility in determining how to use those funds. National Board Director of Government Relations Seth Gerson says ESSA will allow states and districts to “invest in building a continuum of teaching excellence including support for teachers pursuing Board certification.”
This fall, local education agencies across our state are forming committees to collect feedback from all stakeholders on what changes they’d like to see made in North Carolina under ESSA. The timeline requires states to present their completed plans to the Department of Education in February of 2017. Teachers who are interested in speaking their minds on how National Board certification is supported in their districts have a very narrow window in which to do so.
ESSA presents a unique opportunity for teachers’ voices to be heard on the future of professional development. If a portion of Title II funds at the district level were invested in making National Board certification more viable for our teachers, the disturbing trend away from teachers engaging in this valuable process could begin to change.
Justin Parmenter began his teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania, later teaching in Istanbul Turkey and on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona. He currently teaches 7th grade Language Arts at Waddell Language Academy in Charlotte, NC and is a North Carolina Teacher Voice Network Fellow with the Hope Street Group. You can reach him on Twitter at @justinparmenter
Note: To see the timeline in your state, visit ESSA Implementation in the States.