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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs 1 Introduction Since the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1986, policy makers have implemented a number of reforms aimed at improving the education of students in this country. These reforms have taken a variety of forms, but all are intended to improve the quality of the instruction provided to students and thus improve their learning. One prominent effort has been to develop and disseminate standards that define accomplished teaching and formally recognize teachers who meet these standards by awarding them advanced-level certification, beyond the basics needed for initial licensure. The guiding idea behind this reform is that articulating the components of high-quality practice, making these descriptions widely available, and acknowledging teachers who demonstrate these practices will improve teaching throughout the education system, which should in turn improve student learning. Currently two organizations in the United States are pursuing such reforms: the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE). The NBPTS has been offering advanced-level certification for teachers since 1994. The ABCTE’s program to certify distinguished teachersSM is relatively new and still under development. As described in more detail later in this chapter, the two organizations present alternative approaches to the assessment of accomplished teaching. The national board has received over $100 million from the federal government through the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, in addition to an equivalent amount from private foundations and corporate sponsors (Hannaway and Bischoff, 2005). Much
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs of this funding supported research and development during the board’s early years as it undertook development of the standards for accomplished teaching and the assessments, and the board is now largely self-sufficient financially. In an attempt to learn more about the effectiveness of offering advanced-level certification for teachers as an educational intervention and to evaluate whether this money has been well spent, the U.S. Congress asked the U.S. Department of Education to contract with the National Academies both to develop a framework for evaluating programs for certifying advanced-level teachers and to apply that framework in conducting an evaluation of the impact of the NBPTS certification program. Specifically, Congress asked the National Academies (Consolidated Appropriations Act, P.L. 108-99; see http://www7.nationalacademies.org/ocga/Laws/PL108_199.asp): [To] conduct an evaluation of the outcomes of teachers who achieved NBPTS certification versus teachers who did not complete certification and teachers who did not participate in or apply for the program. [The National Academies] is requested to perform an independent, scientific study using the strongest practical methodology to evaluate the impact of board certification, including an assessment of whether the NBPTS certification model is a cost effective method of improving teacher quality and the extent to which certification makes a difference in student academic achievement. In carrying out this study, the NAS should commission the collection of new data and conduct appropriate, rigorous analyses of such data. The conferees also expect that a similar scientific evaluation will be conducted on the outcomes of the work of the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) when available data will permit such an assessment and therefore urge NCTQ1 to begin to incorporate evaluation elements into the program now. The National Academies established the Committee on the Evaluation of the Impact of Teacher Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to carry out this study. The committee is composed of 17 individuals with expertise in assessment (educational and credential testing), economics and evaluation of education policy, education administration, program evaluation, teacher education, teaching, sociology, and sociological methodology. The committee worked on this study over the course of three years. 1 This program is the one under development by the ABCTE to recognize distinguished teachersSM.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs NATIONAL BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL TEACHING STANDARDS The NBPTS was created in 1987 in response to recommendations of the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession. Its recommendations, reported in A Nation Prepared (Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986), called for large-scale reform efforts intended to improve the quality of the U.S. teaching force, including a national board whose task was to establish the standards that represent accomplished teaching practice and to develop a means to certify teachers who meet these standards. The NBPTS was expected to establish “high and rigorous standards for what teachers should know and be able to do, to certify teachers who meet those standards, and to advance other education reforms for the purpose of improving student learning in American schools” (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1991). The board devoted seven years to defining these standards and developing the assessment to measure them and in doing so brought together individuals representing a wide and varied set of perspectives, charged with coming to consensus on the practices that represent accomplished teaching and the methods for identifying teachers who demonstrate these practices. Their product is a set of standards for 25 teaching specialty areas. The assessments for each specialty area were designed to allow teachers to demonstrate their proficiency in real-life situations. To earn advanced-level certification, teachers must respond to a set of six computer-based constructed-response tasks that measure subject matter knowledge and also assemble a portfolio consisting of videotapes of their teaching, written reflections on their goals and the outcomes of the lesson submitted, and student work associated with the lesson. The computerized portion is administered during the course of a day at a testing center. Preparation of the portfolio typically occurs over the course of a school year. To be eligible for advanced-level certification, the teacher must have completed a bachelor’s degree, have completed at least three full years of teaching or counseling before beginning the application process, and have had a valid teaching or counseling license throughout that period.2 The board’s assessment program became operational in 1994. Since that time, approximately 63,800 teachers have earned board certification. More than two-thirds of the states encourage board certification with monetary rewards or other incentives, although the incentives vary significantly across states, and there are board-certified teachers practicing in every state. 2 A candidate who does not have a license may be eligible if he or she has been teaching in a school in which licensure is not required that is “recognized and approved to operate by the state” (http://www.nbpts.org).
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs AMERICAN BOARD FOR CERTIFICATION OF TEACHER EXCELLENCE The ABCTE plans to implement a somewhat different approach to measuring effective teaching (American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, 2007). It currently plans to base certification decisions on four components: (1) three one-hour structured classroom observations conducted by trained observers; (2) a structured evaluation of the teacher’s professionalism and leadership qualities conducted by his or her supervisor; a computer-based assessment of subject-matter expertise; and (3) evidence from statistical value-added analyses quantifying the impact the teacher has made on students’ score gains on standardized achievement tests. The ABCTE plan is still under development, and the organization is conducting research on the reliability, validity, and feasibility of each component. Additional information is available at http://www.abcte.org. THE COMMITTEE’S APPROACH The Carnegie task force envisioned that a program that certifies accomplished teachers might affect overall teacher quality in a variety of ways. For example, by identifying the most effective teachers, the program could enable schools and districts to recognize and reward them and thus more easily retain excellent teachers. Participation in the program might improve teachers’ practice, and their practice might in turn influence that of their colleagues. The existence of the program might also influence teacher preparation programs more broadly, which could affect the practice of teachers who never even seek certification. Furthermore, by professionalizing teaching as a career, the board might influence the next generation of teachers and attract more effective applicants into education careers. These potential impacts of a certification program for accomplished teachers differ in kind, and many are difficult to assess in a rigorous way. The committee was charged not only with evaluating the NBPTS, but also with developing a framework that could be used both for that purpose and for the evaluation of other advanced-level teacher certification programs. Thus, we began our work by considering in detail the ways a certification program for advanced-level teachers might improve the schooling of children and the field of teaching in general. To provide a framework for our evaluation, we developed a list of key questions to ask about a program designed to accomplish these goals. With this evaluation framework in place, we identified specific research questions associated with each of our primary evaluation questions and considered the nature of the evidence that would be needed to answer each of them. The committee then reviewed the available research literature and data, analyzed its application to the evalu-
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs ation framework questions, sought out additional data and analyses, and used this body of information to evaluate the NBPTS. GUIDE TO THE REPORT This report describes the committee’s evaluation framework and presents our evaluation of the national board’s program. Chapter 2 describes both the evaluation framework and its rationale and the kinds of published research, other data, and other sources of information we examined. An overview of the context in which the national board was developed and the program’s history is presented in Chapter 3, and Chapter 4 describes the board, its operations, and the structure and content of the current certification process. The committee’s evaluation of the NBPTS is presented in Chapters 5 through 11. In Chapter 5 the psychometric characteristics of the assessment and the available evidence of its psychometric quality are described. Chapter 6 discusses the available data regarding participation in the national board certification process across the states and some of the factors that may influence participation. Evidence regarding outcomes for students taught by national board–certified teachers is discussed in Chapter 7, together with the committee’s thinking about the issues surrounding this line of research. The question of the impact that national board certification has on teachers is addressed in Chapter 8, in which we consider the extent to which participation in the assessment changes teachers’ practices and has an impact on their effectiveness. Chapter 9 deals with research regarding the career paths of board-certified teachers. Chapter 10 discusses evidence of possible spillover effects the board certification program may have, such as indirect effects on teacher preparation, professional development, and the status of the teaching profession. Chapter 11 addresses the cost-effectiveness of the national board program as a means of improving teacher quality. Our recommendations are included in these chapters and also summarized in Chapter 12, together with the committee’s overall conclusions about the national board program and its impacts.