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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs 3 The Historical Context and Overview of the National Board The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is a product of its time. It was developed in response to a combination of circumstances that include long-standing trends as well as immediate policy pressures. Its characteristics reflect developments in research on teaching and in educational measurement, and its progress has inevitably been affected by subsequent events and trends in the world of education policy. As we examined the board’s goals, its history, and the context in which it was developed, we realized that a detailed understanding of these circumstances would be an important foundation for our evaluation. This chapter describes the context we think is necessary to understanding the board and what it has accomplished as well as the conclusions and recommendations we make. We begin with a discussion of the education reform context in the United States that supported the board’s creation in the late 1980s and its development during the 1990s. We then set the board’s policy goals in the context of the way the field of teaching has developed and its status at the time the board was conceived. We describe the board’s development and discuss some of the factors that have affected its progress. The chapter closes with some observations about the context in which the present evaluation has been undertaken. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the board’s operations and the assessment process that certification candidates undergo.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs THE CONTEXT FOR REFORM The NBPTS was founded in 1987 as a central component in a comprehensive effort to reform the way public education was structured in the United States (Tucker, 1995). A Nation at Risk, a report issued in 1983 by the National Commission on Excellence in Education, had focused public attention on the need for a fundamental restructuring of the education system in this country. The charge to that commission, which was created by Secretary of Education T.H. Bell in 1981, was to examine the quality of education in the United States and make recommendations for its improvement. Citing a variety of indicators of poor student performance, including international comparisons of student achievement, the authors concluded that the United States was at risk of losing its economic edge in the world (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). The report’s grim prediction was accompanied by a forceful call to reform public education, and its recommendations included stronger graduation requirements, higher and measurable standards for students’ academic performance, a longer school day, and steps to improve the preparation of teachers and to make the field of teaching more rewarding and better respected. As a follow-up to A Nation at Risk, the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy decided in 1985 to form a task force, which included policy makers, educators, leaders of the teachers’ unions, and business leaders, to study the quality of teaching in U.S. schools (see Box 3-1). In 1986, the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession released its report, A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century. The report represented a hard-won consensus among this diverse group of leaders, who became convinced that improving the quality of teachers and the status of the field would be essential to the education reforms the nation was demanding (Koppich, Humphrey, and Hough, 2006; Tucker, 1995). The Carnegie task force argued that to meet the demands of the 21st century, schools had to help students reach levels of achievement previously thought possible only for a select few (Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986). Improving the quality of the nation’s teachers would be the key to achieving this goal, and teachers, in turn, would require more and better preparation than was the norm. They would need a deeper understanding of the subject matter they would be teaching and of how knowledge is developed in the disciplines, improved understanding of how children learn and develop in different contexts, a wider repertoire of instructional strategies for reaching a diverse student population, and more varied skills for assessing students’ understanding of the content and skills they had been taught. A certification program would identify those among the teaching force who had these attributes as accomplished teachers so they could be rewarded and mobilized to improve teaching and learning.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs BOX 3-1 Members of the Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession Lewis M. Branscomb, chairman, International Business Machines Corporation Alan M. Campbell, vice chairman of the board and executive vice president, ARA Services Mary Hatwood Futrell, president, National Education Association John W. Gardner, writer and consultant Fred M. Hechinger, president, The New York Times Company Foundation Bill Honig, superintendent of public instruction, State of California James B. Hunt, attorney, Poyner & Spruill Vera Katz, Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives Thomas H. Kean, Governor of New Jersey Judith E. Lanier, dean, College of Education, Michigan State University Arturo Madrid, president, The Tomas Rivera Center Shirley Malcom, American Association for the Advancement of Science Ruth E. Randall, commissioner of education, State of Minnesota Albert Shanker, president, American Federation of Teachers The Carnegie task force also argued that improving the status of the field and working conditions in the schools would be critical both for attracting and retaining capable teachers and for enabling them to do their jobs effectively. Schools would need to be transformed into learning communities designed to support both student achievement and teacher professionalism. Teachers would need more autonomy in exercising professional judgment and more influence over decisions that affect their work. They would also need support in developing truly collegial relationships with colleagues that would promote professional learning and development. Incentives for teachers would be tied to school-wide student performance. The task force insisted that without a comprehensive and integrated plan for restructuring the schools and redefining teaching as a profession, students were not likely to meet the more rigorous academic demands of the changing curriculum. The members of the task force regarded the plan they proposed as radical, describing its elements as “sweeping changes in education policy,” which were intended to work together to create “a profession of well-educated teachers prepared to assume new powers and responsibilities to redesign schools for the future” (Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986). The full set of recommendations follows (p. 3):
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs Create a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, organized with a regional and state membership structure, to establish high standards for what teachers need to know and be able to do, and to certify teachers who meet that standard. Restructure schools to provide a professional environment for teaching, freeing them to decide how best to meet state and local goals for children while holding them accountable for student progress. Restructure the teaching force, and introduce a new category of “Lead Teachers” with the proven ability to provide active leadership in the redesign of schools and in helping their colleagues to uphold high standards of teaching and learning. Require a bachelor’s degree in the arts and sciences as a prerequisite for the professional study of teaching. Develop a new professional curriculum in graduate schools of education leading to a Master’s in Teaching degree, based on systematic knowledge of teaching and including internships and residencies in the schools. Mobilize the nation’s resources to prepare minority youngsters for teaching careers. Relate incentives for teachers to school-wide student performance, and provide schools with the technology, services, and staff essential to teacher productivity. Make teachers’ salaries and career opportunities competitive with those in other professions. We call attention to the full set of recommendations here and elsewhere in the report, because they are directly relevant to the task of evaluating the program. As we discussed in Chapter 2, the board was not expected to accomplish all of these goals on its own or solely through the advanced-level certification program. Several other organizations, including the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), for example, also adopted the goals of the task force and addressed other means of improving the quality of the teaching force. Nevertheless, the board’s charge was ambitious. As James B. Hunt, Jr., the first chair of the board, described it, NBPTS “was originally set up to try to help create a true profession of teaching because we didn’t agree on standards, and we didn’t assess teachers rigorously, and we didn’t have ways to move them along in the profession” (Keller, 2006). At the same time, performance assessment itself was a relatively new idea in the world of educational measurement, and the goal of administering a performance assessment for teachers on a large scale, as the national
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs board set out to do, was unprecedented (Joan Baratz-Snowden, personal communication).1 There had been other attempts to develop standardized performance assessments, such as a portfolio assessment of writing used in Vermont. However, by exploring ways to make a large-scale, standardized program of performance assessments for teachers operational, the national board was breaking new ground. The national board attempted not only to redefine teaching as a profession in the public mind, but also to formally examine teaching practice in a new way that goes far beyond testing for knowledge—by exploring student work and interactions between teachers and their students in circumstances that would be genuine but could be standardized for scoring. By doing so, the national board sought both to expand understanding of what constitutes accomplished teaching and to pin down the elements that are critical to it. Board certification would identify teachers who have developed a body of expertise over time, and highlight the components of this expertise as distinct from the talent and skills that an excellent beginning teacher might have. Together with the other reforms enumerated in A Nation Prepared, the board certification program was intended to improve the overall quality of teaching. THE GOAL OF PROFESSIONALIZING TEACHING The NBPTS was viewed, in part, as a means of professionalizing the field of teaching. A brief look at the development of the teaching field in the United States, the distinction between professions and other occupational groups, the ways in which teachers have been trained and licensed, and other aspects of the field, provides background for understanding this goal. Historical Context Teaching is an ancient vocation, and from the earliest civilizations it has been recognized as a necessary and valuable activity—but its purposes have evolved. For much of recorded history, formal education was available to just a small percentage of the population. While families and occupational structures such as guilds have also educated young people, particularly in the skills and crafts necessary for self-sufficiency, until very recently, the 1 Some of the details regarding the origins of the national board and its development were supplied through interviews conducted on behalf of the committee with a number of individuals who were closely associated with the program in its early days. See Chapter 2 for a list of people interviewed by the committee.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs overwhelming majority of the world’s people have been illiterate and have lacked numeracy skills. The seeds of the modern commitment to education for all, that is now evident in much of the world, are found in the industrial and democratic revolutions of the eighteenth century. As the rights of citizenship were expanded, the many social benefits of an educated citizenry became more widely recognized. The development of schooling in the United States followed this trend. From the nation’s founding, education (for white males) was regarded as essential to the success of a democracy. By the 1840s, the common schools, associated in particular with the name of Horace Mann, were beginning to provide a free elementary education to most of the children in a community in the same school, regardless of class; nonwhite children were still generally excluded. The 20th century saw both an expansion of educational opportunities for minority children and the expansion of required free public education to the secondary level. The need for teachers to serve this expanding pool of public school students entailed a corresponding focus on how aspiring teachers might be prepared for the job.2 The earliest U.S. schools for prospective teachers were not elite academic institutions. Most provided the equivalent of a high school education with some specialized training in pedagogy, although many later became well-respected four-year colleges and universities (Angus, 2001; Sedlak and Schlossman, 1986). In 1935 a bachelor’s degree was comparatively rare for teachers as a group: just 10 percent of elementary school teachers, 56 percent of junior high school teachers, and 85 percent of high school teachers had them. However, by the early 1980s, virtually 100 percent of K-12 teachers had a bachelor’s degree and nearly half had a master’s degree (Sedlak and Schlossman, 1986). Neither the training of teachers nor the study of pedagogy was widely regarded as an academic endeavor worthy of the nation’s top postsecondary institutions until well into the twentieth century, and that bias generally mirrored the status of teachers in society (Labaree, 2000, 2004; National Research Council, 2001). Up to the present day, schools of education occupy a distinct and somewhat uncomfortable position—viewed as not genuinely rigorous by many colleagues in other academic fields, but also viewed as too theoretical by many observers focused on the practical realities of day-to-day life in schools (Labaree, 2004). This lack of status has weakened the influence of these programs and the status of teachers. Academic programs that focused on the preparation of teachers, however, proliferated in the first half of the twentieth century, and states in- 2 Here and throughout the report we focus on teachers in the K-12 public schools because they are the majority of teachers in the United States and because the national board program focuses on them.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs creasingly looked to the credentials they offered as a means of establishing prospective teachers’ qualifications. Today there are between 1,200 and 1,300 schools of education in the United States (1,206 such programs are university based) (Levine, 2006). Characteristics of a Profession The members of the Carnegie task force believed that teaching has not been viewed or treated as on par with professions, such as medicine or law. They and others have observed that the field has lacked an agreed-on base of knowledge, shared standards of excellence, and career pathways that formally reward the accumulation of skill and experience and allow teachers to progress professionally (Carnegie Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, 1986; Koppich, Humphrey, and Hough, 2006; Lucas, 1999; National Research Council, 2001a). But what is a profession? Teaching is not the only field in which the distinction between profession and other occupational categories has been an issue; social scientists have identified several features that characterize professions (Abbott, 1988; Carr-Saunders and Wilson, 1964). One set of characteristics relates to the knowledge that practitioners hold. Professionals generally have command of a body of technical expertise that is not shared by those outside the profession. They obtain this knowledge through a long period of intensive training that is provided by experts in their field. Moreover, professionals develop expertise over time: skills and judgment that allow them to draw on and apply their theoretical knowledge in response to circumstances, to evaluate and make decisions about problems, and to develop strategies for addressing them. In many cases, acquisition of this body of knowledge and expertise is marked by some form of licensure or certification, which also provides a public signal of the adequacy and validity of the training. Professional associations and the state are most often responsible for awarding the license or certificate and for overseeing the validity of the process. Often the licensure or certification system gives those who have the credential a monopoly, or near monopoly, in offering the services associated with the profession. For example, physicians who are not board-certified in cardiology are not generally granted privileges to practice cardiology in a hospital. These systems also contribute to the professions’ latitude in policing themselves, both by defining and enforcing codes of ethics and by controlling entry into the profession. Other factors relate to the way in which the members of a profession go about their work. In contrast to other kinds of workers, professionals are expected to have a strong personal commitment to their work, which some describe as a sacred calling and others as simply an ethic of service.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs Members of a profession often define their calling or commitment in terms of service to a particular group—such as patients or students—but other considerations—such as respect for the law, journalistic integrity, or principles of design—might also play a part in the definition of the profession. A commitment to serve the group and other ideals of the profession is expected to override considerations of financial and personal gain. Professionals are also generally granted a high level of autonomy and discretion in carrying out their work and a large measure of control over the conditions in which they carry it out, by contrast with other workers. In practice, occupational fields possess these characteristics in varying degrees. Medicine, for example, could be said to meet most of these criteria and is generally regarded as a profession. Others, such as engineering, accounting, or nursing, meet fewer of them. Many occupations, such as carpentry and other building trades, and many computer and other technical fields have periods of apprenticeship and require the development of expertise that may be acquired on the job or through schooling, but they are not normally recognized as professions. Furthermore, external circumstances may affect the practice of a profession. For example, some physicians have found that rising costs and changes in the financing and administration of health care have compromised their autonomy. Box 3-2 provides information about efforts to professionalize other occupations. A review of these criteria suggests that teaching has some, but not all, of the characteristics that social scientists associate with professions, and that the task force was correct in its judgment that teaching is not a full profession. On one hand, public school teachers are required to accumulate a body of technical expertise and usually do so in a school of education. A state-granted license is a requirement for employment in the public schools, although the field itself has only limited influence on the individual states’ requirements for licensure. Teaching is also perceived as a calling with an ethical or moral component, perhaps to an even greater degree than other professions, because it involves close relationships with children and youth. In fact, teaching has been imbued with a moral purpose in most contexts (Durkheim, 1956; Goodlad, 1994; Tom, 1984). On the other hand, teachers have been widely viewed as not possessing the degree of knowledge and expertise required of other professionals, and they do not have control over entry into the field or standards of practice. As employees of school districts and schools, public school teachers have comparatively little professional autonomy or control over the conditions in which they work. It is generally the case that teachers unions, rather than professional associations, protect and advance the interests of teachers, a situation that tends to reinforce teachers’ status as employees, not professionals. It is also worth noting that although most teachers before the 19th
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs BOX 3-2 Professionalization in Other Occupations Medicine was among the first fields in the United States to take up the challenges of both licensing its practitioners, by guaranteeing that particular standards have been met, and certifying that certain practitioners have met additional advanced and specialized requirements. The National Board of Medical Examiners was founded in 1915 to develop examinations that could be used to judge candidates for medical licensure (http://www.nbme.org/about/about.asp). To obtain a medical license, a candidate must satisfy a number of requirements, including passing three tests. States are responsible for licensing medical doctors and for specifying licensing requirements. State requirements vary somewhat, but all include several years of postgraduate study, passage of an examination, and a variety of additional steps (Federation of State Medical Boards, http://www.fsmb.org/index.html). At the same time that general licensure for physicians was being established as a state requirement, the growing number of medical specialties led to calls for specialty boards. The purpose was not to add legal requirements to the practice of medicine, but to help the public identify physicians with specific qualifications. Today, the American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes the boards of 24 medical specialties as meeting its standards for education, training, and examination of candidates (http://www.abms.org/history.asp#Development). Nursing is a field that has many parallels with teaching, both because its workforce has been predominantly female and because it has had a status somewhat below that of such professions as medicine and law.* Nurses are required to pass an exam created by the Council of State Nursing Boards, although each state has it own licensing requirements for nurses (http://www.nursingworld.org/ancc/cert/index.html; http://nursingcertification.org/index.html). Advanced certification for nurses is available in a number of areas, including acute care, family practice, gerontology, pediatrics, and psychiatry/mental health. Today more than 150,000 (of 2.4 million in the United States) registered nurses have obtained advanced certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Council, the American Board of Nursing Specialties, and the American Nurses Association. Another field that has attracted large numbers of women is social work, a comparatively young profession that was first recognized as a field of study at Columbia University in 1898 (http://www.socialworkers.org/pressroom/features/general/history.asp, http://www.abecsw.org/info/bcd/i_faqs.shtml). Social workers who wish to be recognized for an advanced level of qualifications can seek certification from the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work. The board issues the Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work to individuals who have met the requirements, which include clinical practice, a master’s degree from an accredited institution, a license, and successful completion of a peer evaluation–based examination process. *According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 92 percent of registered nurses are female (http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/004491.html).
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs century were male, the field has been largely female for much of its history in the United States, and only since the 20th century has it edged toward greater gender balance (Sedlak and Schlossman, 1986). The perception of teaching as a women’s field has not enhanced its status. We note also that the goal of professionalizing teaching was articulated by the Carnegie task force and the national board at a time when professionalization was a topical concern in other fields as well. Other fields had been pushing to join the ranks of professions; a 1964 article identified social work, veterinary medicine, school teaching, nursing, and pharmacy, among others, as “in process” [of becoming professions] or “borderline” (Wilensky, 1964). Sociologists and others were also devoting attention to questions about the defining characteristics of professions, determining how professionals should be trained, and the intellectual relationship between research and professional practice (Schön, 1983; Wilensky, 1964). Thus, the proponents of professionalizing teachers were part of a trend, and they also faced some resistance from those who did not view the field as intellectually rigorous enough to join the ranks of the established professions. Accreditation, Certification, and Licensure The ways in which teachers are licensed3 and schools/colleges of education are accredited have had a significant influence on the preparation of those who enter teaching. Teachers in the United States have been required to obtain licenses since the colonial period, although the standards for licensure have evolved (Lucas, 1999). At first the focus was on moral character and the capacity to maintain discipline, although some jurisdictions established written tests to assess basic competency in the subjects to be taught. Today, public school teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are required to obtain teaching licenses, which are granted by the state department of education or licensure advisory committee (Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos069.htm#training). The licensure requirements for teaching differ somewhat from state to state, however. Virtually all jurisdictions require the accumulation of a certain number of course credits or completion of a bachelor’s degree. Many, but not all, jurisdictions use the same tests, and many also add or substitute additional requirements, with the result that both the nature of what is assessed and the standards that prospective teachers have to meet vary (National Research Council, 2001a). In addition, most states have allowed exemptions of various kinds from their licensure requirements, such 3 The terms licensure and certification are sometimes used interchangeably. In this report, we use the term “licensure” to refer to the credential required for initial entry into the field. See Box 2-1.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs as emergency credentials and alternate routes to certification for individuals who lack a teaching degree. According to a recent estimate, one out of five entering teachers currently comes through an alternate certification program in one of the 47 states that have them (Walsh and Jacobs, 2007). Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 8 develop their own examinations for teacher licensure; 26 use some combination of the three components of the PRAXIS Series, offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS); and 9 require some other combination of assessments (Baber, 2007). Of the states that do have a testing requirement, three also use a testing requirement to certify advanced teachers. Arkansas and Ohio use PRAXIS III for this purpose, and New York has its own assessment.4 In general, entering teachers, who have met the entry-level requirements, receive a probationary certificate and then have a three-year period in which to complete additional requirements. Teachers who have satisfied these requirements receive a standard certificate, qualify for tenure, and are referred to as “advanced” teachers (some states identify as advanced only teachers who have earned a master’s degree). The majority of public school teachers are educated at a school of education. Fewer than 40 percent of these programs are nationally accredited, and, as a group, they are regarded as having comparatively low standards for admission and modest success in preparing excellent teachers (Levine, 2006; Murray, 2001). It is important to note that these programs vary in many respects, and that prospective teachers are not evenly distributed among them—as many as 50 percent of graduates come from teacher education programs in five states (California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas), and more than one-fourth were in just two states: New York and California (U.S. Department of Education, 2006).5 As this brief overview suggests, the professional lives of teachers are subject to a wide variety of influences. In the 1980s, when the NBPTS was established, the circumstances in which teachers pursued their careers reflected the field’s somewhat equivocal status. Then, as now, it was clear that much has been demanded of teachers, but that the circumstances in 4 The three elements of the PRAXIS Series cover basic academic skills; general and subject-specific knowledge and teaching skills; and classroom performance (http://www.ets.org/). 5 Most teacher education programs that do seek accreditation do so through NCATE, a national organization that accredits schools, colleges, and departments of education that prepare beginning teachers (Kraft, 2001). NCATE describes itself as “part of a continuum of teacher preparation and development that begins with pre-service preparation, and continues with stages of teacher licensure and advanced professional development, including National Board certification” (http://www.ncate.org/). As of June 2007, 632 institutions with teacher education programs were NCATE certified. An additional 59 are certified by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, founded in 1997, which allows programs to identify the standards against which they wish to be judged (http://www.teac.org/quickfacts.asp).
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs which they do their work differ in important ways from what is customary in other fields, and the institutions that determine standards for their preparation and advancement vary significantly. With this profile as a backdrop, then, we turn to the development of the national board. THE NATIONAL BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL TEACHING STANDARDS Development of the National Board When the NBPTS was initially established in 1987, its board of directors included 63 members. As required in its bylaws, two-thirds of the members were teachers and the remaining third were administrators, policy makers, and members of the public. The board conducted its work by forming subgroups to handle specific tasks, such as defining performance and content standards by which teachers could be assessed, developing the structure for the certification assessment itself, determining what kinds of certificates would be awarded (i.e., in different subject areas and for students of different ages), and identifying the prerequisites that would be required. The development of the program was significantly influenced by the work of the Institute for Research on Teaching (IRT), housed at Michigan State University and codirected by Judith Lanier and Lee Shulman, and later the Teacher Assessment Development Project (TAP), housed at Stanford University, led by Lee Shulman. The IRT researchers were exploring conceptions of teacher preparation and assessment that went beyond the skills acquisition model favored at the time. Shulman and his colleagues were influenced by observations of assessments used for other professions, particularly emergency medicine, which had recently incorporated simulations and performance assessments, though not on a large scale. Investigation of the methods used to assess and certify professionals in other fields inspired their thinking about possibilities for assessing teachers in more sophisticated ways. This thinking had been laid out in a 1986 paper that described a research plan for adapting this work to the field of teaching, and TAP was formed to carry out the work and to develop assessment prototypes that could assist the board in its work (Shulman and Sykes, 1986; Sykes and Wilson, 1988). At the time, the multiple-choice National Teachers Examination (NTE) offered by the ETS was the principal instrument available for assessing teachers’ competence, but it was widely viewed as too simplistic to effectively identify teachers of high quality. Moreover, the NTE was an assessment for teachers entering the profession and not intended to certify experienced teachers with advanced skills. TAP researchers sought to build an assess-
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs ment of teaching around the challenges that teachers actually encounter in the classroom. They focused on ways teachers could present portfolios that could be scored in a standardized way but that would reflect collaboration with colleagues and other typical components of effective teaching. The new portfolio assessment was designed to move past the ordinary conception that coaching or sharing ideas with others would undermine validity. Teachers were encouraged to consult with their peers and share ideas as they prepared their portfolios and to incorporate those activities into their written reflections. Thus, there was no need to control “cheating,” although teachers did need to verify that all the written pieces were entirely their own work. This feature was particularly important because it reflected the assessment’s focus on teachers’ analytical skills, not simply their factual or technical knowledge. Portfolio assessment was in its infancy at this time, and it had not yet been adopted for certification testing, so many challenges remained. Other kinds of performance assessments had been used effectively in other situations. For example, medical schools had been using Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) to appraise medical students’ clinical skills, such as communication, clinical examination, medical procedures, prescribing, and interpretation of results—often using actors as patients in simulated clinical situations. Efforts to use performance assessments to evaluate the skills of U.S. soldiers were also under way. Pilot work by the National Board of Medical Examiners investigated the value and feasibility of including an OSCE-like component in the medical licensure exam, although this component did not become operational until 2006 (http://www.nbme.org). In the field of teaching, performance assessments were also being successfully used on a small scale to appraise the skills of teachers in training. For example, Alverno College had implemented a coherent program of performance assessments that took place during teachers’ undergraduate preparation and culminated in the preparation of a portfolio. Thus, at the time, there was momentum to push forward the measurement field, particularly certification practices, and to move toward forms of assessment that were more authentic than the typical multiple-choice test. The national board’s Technical Analysis Group, chaired by Richard Jaeger at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, was formed to bring additional psychometric expertise to bear on assessment design challenges that the board faced, such as developing tasks that would be comparable across assessment years; setting performance standards and cut scores for the assessments; designing ways to score the assessments that would yield valid and reliable scores; piloting the scoring and standard-setting procedures; evaluating issues of fairness, such as possible adverse impact on particular population subgroups; and conducting validation studies. The Technical Analysis Group, which was composed primarily of well-known
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs experts in measurement and which frequently sought out additional expertise to address specific questions, existed from 1992 until 1996. Important questions about how such technology as videotaping could best be used, what kinds of impact the use of that technology might have on teachers from varying backgrounds, and many other issues were resolved in this period. A series of studies sponsored by the Spencer Foundation supported this effort. In 1996, the national board issued a request for proposals and contracted with the ETS to assume operational development of the program of assessments. From 1997 to the writing of this report,6 the ETS served as the test development contractor for the board. NBPTS also convenes various technical oversight panels to advise on technical issues related to the assessment. Development of Content Standards Among the national board’s most important first tasks was to define its “vision of accomplished practice,” which was issued in 1989 under the heading “What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do” and continues to guide the program’s standards and assessments (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1999). Two researchers, Suzanne Wilson and Gary Sykes, former students of TAP director Lee Shulman, served as consultants to the board of directors on this task. Previously, no substantial attempt had been made to pull the views of quality teaching that had been proposed into a unified conception. Drawing on the work of the TAP, the group began with the assumption that accomplished teachers make use of a set of skills and knowledge (of students and pedagogy and of the content they teach) that are acquired through schooling, experience, the influence of colleagues, and other sources (Sykes and Wilson, 1988). Teachers’ proficiency develops and improves over time, and their focus was on the attributes of experienced teachers. The board posited (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 1999, p. 4): The fundamental requirements for proficient teaching are relatively clear: a broad grounding in the liberal arts and sciences; knowledge of the subjects to be taught, of the skills to be developed, and of the curricular arrangements and materials that organize and embody that content; knowledge of general and subject-specific methods for teaching and for evaluating student learning; knowledge of students and human development; skills in effectively teaching students from racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse backgrounds; and the skills, capacities and dispositions to employ such knowledge wisely in the interest of students. 6 The board has recently changed test development contractors.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs From that foundation, the board of directors identified five core propositions, the characteristics that certification would “identify and recognize” in teachers: Teachers are committed to students and their learning. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience. Teachers are members of learning communities. In the view of James A. Kelly, the national board’s first president, this document (the core propositions and their supporting text, shown in Box 3-3) was “a historic statement for what good teaching should be and represented a remarkable consensus” (Keller, 2006). The core propositions would guide the development of assessments in numerous areas, with a structure of certificates sorted by both the grade or age span of the students and the subject matter. The vision developed by the board incorporates a number of contemporary ideas about professional practice, particularly theories proposed about the role that reflecting on one’s practice can play in many professions (Schön, 1983). The term “reflection” was used to refer to the complex interplay of cognitive elements—including practical experience, theoretical knowledge, the capacity to improvise on the spot, and the capacity to learn effectively from experience—that constitute professional excellence. This concept became a cornerstone of the board’s vision of accomplished teaching. In 1993, the assessments for the first certificate were ready, and the first set of teachers earned board certification during the 1993-1994 school year. By the 2006-2007 school year, approximately 63,800 teachers had earned board certification. Other Influences Other developments that have taken place since the board’s founding have had an impact on its progress. For example, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium has worked to improve the preparation of new teachers, and the NCATE has focused on the educational quality of the programs that prepare teachers. Both of these groups have worked to align their standards with those developed by the national
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs BOX 3-3 The Five Core Propositions Teachers are committed to students and their learning: teachers recognize individual differences in their students and adjust their practice accordingly; teachers have an understanding of how students develop and learn; teachers treat students equitably; and teachers’ mission extends beyond developing the cognitive capacity of their students. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students: teachers appreciate how knowledge in their subjects is created, organized, and linked to other disciplines; teachers command specialized knowledge of how to convey a subject to students; and teachers generate multiple paths to knowledge. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning: teachers call on multiple methods to meet their goals; teachers orchestrate learning in group settings; teachers place a premium on student engagement; teachers regularly assess student progress; and teachers are mindful of their principal objectives. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience: teachers are continually making difficult choices that test their judgment; and teachers seek the advice of others and draw on education research and scholarship to improve their practice. Teachers are members of learning communities: teachers contribute to school effectiveness by collaborating with other professionals; teachers work collaboratively with parents; and teachers take advantage of community resources. SOURCE: Reprinted with permission from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (http://www.nbpts.org). All rights reserved.
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs board. Together with the NBPTS, these organizations are sometimes referred to as the “three-legged stool” of teacher quality (Bradley, 1997). The nation’s teachers unions have also played a part in the growth and development of the board (Ballou and Podgursky, 2000; Hannaway and Bischoff, 2005). Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) were supportive of certification for accomplished teachers from the beginning. Longtime AFT president Al Shanker was a vocal supporter, although Mary Futrell, president of the NEA at the time the board was founded and a member of the Carnegie task force, was more hesitant. She was concerned that some of the task force’s conclusions and recommendations implied that existing teachers were not performing adequately; however, in the end she endorsed the overall plan. Union involvement was built into the bylaws of the organization, so that the NBPTS board of directors would always include a number of teachers who were union members. Both unions continue to be supportive of the national board, despite their general resistance to differentiated compensation systems for teachers. A more recent influence on policy discussions of teacher quality has been the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Among the act’s provisions is the requirement that all public school teachers of core subjects (which includes reading, math, science, history, and geography, among others) must be “highly qualified.” The legislation specifies that teachers should have a bachelor’s degree, be fully licensed, and not have been excused from any licensure requirements (U.S. Department of Education, 2001). It also requires that they demonstrate competence in the field in which they teach. States have devised with a variety of ways to meet this requirement, which focus primarily on the credentials of beginning teachers (Education Commission of the States, 2004; National Council on Teacher Quality, 2004). The national board has proposed that its standards for accomplished teaching provide an excellent blueprint for a more ambitious conception of the attributes that highly qualified teachers should have (Dilworth et al., 2006). Others have also suggested that board-certified teachers are an important resource in this context and that linking board certification with the legislative requirements would be an important way for states to reap additional benefits from their investments in encouraging teachers to become certified (Rotherham, 2004). Obstacles to the National Board’s Progress A variety of circumstances have proved to be significant obstacles to the board’s achievement of its goals. The nation as well as individual states have experienced shortages of teachers because of rapid population growth in some regions, tough competition from other employment sectors, and
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs other factors. In times of shortage, states and districts have historically lowered requirements to allow people who might not otherwise have qualified to enter teaching. This pressure has worked against the push for raising standards for teachers. Shortages have been a particular problem for urban school districts, as well as in certain fields (particularly special education, mathematics, and science), and the problem has, in turn, exacerbated the unequal distribution of highly qualified teachers. The standard response to teacher shortages by policy makers has been to focus away from the development and recognition of teachers with advanced skills, in favor of measures to identify enough entry-level teachers to fill vacancies (Ingersoll, 2001). Another factor that has impeded the board’s progress has been a push to deregulate teacher education. The goal of privatizing public education, advanced primarily by politically conservative groups, has included an effort to expand responsibility for the preparation of teachers beyond the traditional providers, schools and colleges of education (see, e.g., Friedman, 1995; Zeichner, 2003), and has also created alternate routes to teaching, which some observers claim have watered down the standards for entering teachers (Walsh and Jacobs, 2007). Since the board’s approach is premised on the value of building alignment among the entities that influence teacher quality, particularly between the goals for preparing new teachers and the goals that will guide experienced teachers toward certification, this development does not serve the board’s interests. Perhaps the most serious obstacle has been posed by some of the cultural traditions in the field of teaching in the United States. Researchers who have examined the culture of teaching from a sociological perspective have identified several characteristics that are to varying degrees antithetical to the approach advocated in the national board standards. Teachers in the United States are not generally taught or encouraged to share their practice. Researchers who have studied teaching in other cultures have highlighted strong traditions in which teachers publicly share professional knowledge and actively collaborate to help one another improve and develop (Hiebert, Gallimore, and Stigler, 2002; Stigler and Hiebert, 1997; Wang and Paine, 2003). It is common in Japan, for example, for teachers to observe and critique one another’s lessons and to meet regularly to discuss their practice and critique their own and others’ work (Lewis and Tsuchida, 1998). This practice allows teachers to develop both a shared language with which to talk about their experiences and a shared base of professional knowledge. Similar practices are used in other countries as well, but they have not been the norm in the United States. Stigler and Hiebert, who led a videotape study of teaching in several countries as part of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, have pointed to significant cultural differences in the practices of teachers in different countries, noting that, in
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs contrast to teachers in many other countries, U.S. teachers are “left alone” to figure things out for themselves (Stigler and Hiebert, 1997). Researchers who have focused on the culture of teaching in the United States have reported similar findings. Teachers in the United States have tended to work as “entrepreneurs” who value self-reliance above cooperation and who rarely engage in the kind of active mentoring relationships that have been found effective in other cultures (Little, 1990; Lord, 1994; McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001). U.S. teachers do have many opportunities for certain kinds of collaboration, such as joint planning by grade level or subject matter. However, they rarely develop the kinds of professional learning communities that have been described by researchers as the most effective teaching environments (e.g., McLaughlin and Talbert, 2001). Teachers in the United States also have a strong tradition of egalitarianism, which has often resulted in significant resistance to strategies for recognizing and rewarding those who demonstrate excellence (Little, 1990; Lortie, 2002). Where this influence is strong, administrators who would like to reward merit may face a disgruntled and resistant staff, and they tend to back down. Finally, observers have noted that those attracted to teaching tend not to be risk-takers but rather to be somewhat conservative or cautious and somewhat resistant to change (Lortie, 2002). The national board’s standards and the requirements for earning certification directly challenge these cultural norms. The standards call on teachers to challenge familiar ways of doing things, to reflect collaboratively about their practice, to publicly demonstrate their teaching, and to highlight ways in which they are more accomplished than their colleagues. The reflection and collaboration the board standards describe represent a significant departure from the established culture of teaching in the United States. THE POLICY CONTEXT The planning and development of the national board occurred at a time when the value of challenging and meaningful standards for students was being recognized as a critical strategy for education reform. The logic behind the national board’s strategy was to set high standards for teachers as a means for improving teacher quality and, hence, student learning. The board was one part of a comprehensive strategy intended to reform the education system and help students meet the demands of an information-based society. By fostering consensus regarding what constitutes high-quality teaching and highlighting and rewarding teachers who demonstrate those standards, the board was expected to have a significant impact on the overall caliber of U.S. teachers. By expanding expectations about what constitutes good teaching, the board was expected to bring teaching into the ranks of the true professions, improve its capacity to attract and re-
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs tain high-quality personnel, all of which would serve to improve student learning. The policy climate in which this evaluation is now being conducted is different in significant ways. A basic tension is now evident between two different ways of thinking about the question of teacher quality (Kraft, 2001). On one hand is a view of teachers as professional practitioners of a complex task, who should be supported in and rewarded for thinking for themselves, collaborating with colleagues, and taking responsibility for their own growth and development. This is the view that motivated the development of the national board and its standards and has grown to be widely shared in many circles (Hiebert et al., 2002; Koppich, Humphrey, and Hough, 2006; Richardson, 2001; Tucker, 1995). On the other hand, an emphasis on standards and accountability has shifted public focus to the outcomes of teaching in which high-quality teaching is defined as that which produces student learning. The accountability movement has placed increased focus on the results from standardized tests as measures of student learning. The kinds of characteristics measured by the NBPTS assessment—such as the capacity to understand students’ needs, reflect on one’s practice, and collaborate with other teachers—have not been prominent in current policy approaches. While the board includes accountability for student learning as an important element of its approach, the attributes emphasized in its standards do not fit neatly into the current framing of accountability systems. In the years since the national board was founded, states have intensified their focus on assessment results for students and measurable criteria for effective teaching, particularly in response to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Increasingly, students’ scores on standardized assessment have come to be viewed, especially at policy levels, as the only or best measure of the effectiveness of any educational intervention. However, this yardstick was not viewed in the same way at the time the national board was developed, and the program was not envisioned as a strategy whose primary purpose was to raise test scores. Standardized assessments do not lend themselves easily to the evaluation of the kinds of higher order skills that were at the heart of both A Nation at Risk and A Nation Prepared. The national board’s conception of teaching was broad, seeking to develop teachers who, rather than drilling their students until they learned specific bodies of factual knowledge, would use their skills to challenge their students and enable them to achieve high standards considered more broadly. Moreover, since the national board began its work, questions and debate regarding issues related to its mission—about teacher quality and preparation, teacher salaries and incentives, the influence of teachers unions, and the potential value of a range of approaches to reforming public education and improving student achievement, to name a few—have continued
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Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level Certification Programs (e.g., Fenstermacher and Richardson, 2005). Numerous other reforms have been initiated since the board was founded, each of which has had effects on the circumstances the board has hoped to change. The national board continues to conduct its work in a complex environment, a factor we have borne in mind as we conducted our evaluation.