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"on student outcome data for National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), providing a more rigorous test of board certification in education than is typically done in medicine, law or accountancy."

A new study titled “National Board Certified Teachers and Their Student Achievements” concludes that a national teacher certification program helps improve student achievement. Published on September 8, 2004, in the Education Policy Analysis Archives, the study shows that students of teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) outperformed the students of noncertified teachers on a standardized test.

This study, authored by Arizona State University researchers Leslie Vandevoort, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, and David C. Berliner, compares the academic performance of students in the elementary classrooms of thirty-five National Board-certified teachers (NBCTs) and their noncertified peers, in fourteen Arizona school districts. Four years of results from the Stanford Achievement Tests (SAT-9) in reading, mathematics, and language arts, in grades 3-6, were analyzed. In forty-eight final comparison points, using adjusted gain scores for students’ entering ability, the students in the board-certified teachers’ classes received better marks than their counterparts in the classes of non-NBCTs.

For 1999-2000, students of board-certified teachers made greater gains than students of non-board-certified teachers in 75 percent of the comparisons. The same was true for 2000-01. For 2001-02, 58.3 percent of the total comparisons showed that students of board-certified teachers made greater gains than their counterparts. In all, students of board-certified teachers outperformed students of non-NBCTs on 72.9 percent of the measures during the years 1999-03. Of the statistically significant findings, students in classrooms with NBCTs outperformed their non-NBCT counterparts 100 percent of the time.

The second part of the study surveyed principals to get their impressions of board-certified teachers and the general NBPTS assessment process. About 85 percent of the principals thought their board-certified teachers were among the best teachers ever supervised, though almost 10 percent of the principals reported their NBCTs to be average teachers. More than 90 percent of the principals believed that the NBPTS is contributing to the improvement of teacher quality. Furthermore, when asked if they believe that the NBPTS is contributing to improvements in student achievement, 70 percent of the principals believed this to be true. The other 30 percent had no opinion, but did not disagree with the perception of the majority.

Though the NBPTS claims that it does not need student achievement data to show that it is identifying exemplary teachers-much as medical boards invest little time in assessing actual patient health but are satisfied in showing that their doctors are “exemplary” by virtue of passing the board tests-this study nevertheless focuses “on student outcome data for National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs), providing a more rigorous test of board certification in education than is typically done in medicine, law or accountancy.”

Adding to a recent flurry of academic research regarding the usefulness of a national system of teacher certification, the authors of this study reject criticism that the board-certification process only identifies already motivated teachers. They claim that the NBPTS is succeeding in its mission to identify exemplary teachers-and not to inculcate any specific pedagogical values.

The authors of the study support the “content validity” of the board assessments as being substantive and valuable to both teachers and students. They defend the certification process as “a reasonable compromise between a) prohibitively expensive classroom observations and analyses of teaching, requiring data collection over many different days of teaching, with different observers on different days, and b) a very cheap and quick paper and pencil test of teacher competence, with the likelihood of seriously limited validity.”

They conclude: “The Board assessments identify teachers whose students produce more learning per year than do the students of non-board certified teachers, including those that tried but did not pass the exam.”

The full text of “National Board Certified Teachers and Their Student Achievements” can be found online at

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