Is National Board Certification worth the investment?

In a January 18 press release, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI) proudly declared that NC Ranks 1st in National Board Certified Teachers.

According to the release, nearly 21,500 teachers in North Carolina, 21.6 percent of the teacher workforce, have attained certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), an initiative championed by former governor Jim Hunt and sustained by both Democratic and Republican legislatures for over 20 years.  NC DPI noted that North Carolina accounts for nearly 18 percent of NBPTS teachers nationwide.

Certification awards teachers continuing education credits and a 12 percent pay increase for ten years.  For example, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience would have an annual base salary of $48,300.  The same teacher with NBPTS certification would have an annual base salary of $54,100.  After ten years, teachers may renew their certification.

But is NBPTS certification fulfilling the promise of improving academic outcomes? Maybe not.

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) recently examined empirical studies of National Board Certification teachers.  What Works evaluators concluded that NBPTS-certified teachers “had mixed effects on mathematics achievement and no discernible effects on English language arts achievement.”

It is important to note that only five of the 38 studies that examine National Board Certification met evaluators’ standards.  They noted, “No studies are randomized controlled trials that meet WWC group design standards without reservations, and five studies use quasi-experimental designs that meet WWC group design standards with reservations. This report summarizes those five studies. The remaining 33 studies do not meet WWC group design standards.”

One of the studies that met WWC group design standards was Keith Silver’s 2007 doctoral dissertation, “The National Board effect: Does the certification process influence student achievement?”  Silver measured English language arts achievement of a small sample of third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students from the 2002–03 to the 2004–05 school years in North Carolina.  According to the evaluators, “The author did not find a statistically significant effect of NBPTS-certified teachers on English language arts achievement. The WWC-calculated average effect size was not large enough to be considered substantively important. The WWC characterizes these study findings as an indeterminate effect.”

In the end, the costs appear to exceed the benefits, and lawmakers would be wise to reconsider their continued investment in the program.

Terry Stoops / Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies

Terry Stoops is the Vice President for Research and Director of Education Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the Locke Foundation, he worked as the progra...

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