Monday, February 21, 2005

NBPTS certification of little value

Schools give NBPTS-certified teachers huge bonuses. But recent studies have shown that NBPTS- certification is of little value. NBPTS disdains academic achievement and is part of the progressive/constructivist ed complex. No wonder the complex is hostile to objective achievement tests. Who wants to be told that the emperor has no clothes?

Governors and state legislatures in every state have embarked on education reform programs that are strongly supported by the public. All of these programs emphasize the goal of improved academic achievement operationally defined as student performance on standardized achievement tests.

In contrast to this trend, some of the nation’s most important education organizations have promoted teaching standards that emphasize a different set of educational priorities. They include the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) and related groups such as the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC).

The result has been an ongoing clash between two educational cultures: (1) those who believe that the most important activity of schools is the enhancement of objectively measured academic achievement, and (2) those who believe test scores are narrow and artificial indicators of learning and therefore should not be treated as education’s prime objective. According to the latter culture, true learning is evidenced only by real performance in the real world. In fact, to those who embrace the second culture, reform focused on the improvement of test scores is undesirable because it encourages the use of result-oriented teaching methods, not the process-oriented approaches that they believe are better suited to critical thinking (Casas, 2003; Smerdon, Burkam, & Lee, 1999). Unfortunately, portfolios and authentic assessments are far more subjective and less reliable than the standardized tests that they would replace. In effect, members of the second culture would rather water down accountability than temper their pedagogical idealism.

Schools of education operating under the auspices of NCATE and INTASC have embraced the second of the two cultures. They train teachers as though their states do not place a high premium on school and teacher accountability for test performance. The same holds true for the NBPTS certification program that has now been adopted in thirty states. It places little importance on academic achievement as measured by standardized achievement tests.

NBPTS’s Five Propositions of Accomplished Teaching say that teachers should be aware of the “broad goals, objectives, and priorities” set by authorities and of their legal obligation to carry out public policy. They also suggest that teachers should consult with colleagues and make their own decisions about what students should learn (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 2005, p.18). In truth, the Five Propositions give little attention to teacher accountability for student achievement, and even that limited discussion is diluted by a variety ofcaveats.

A more forthright expression of the NBPTS viewpoint is revealed in the first major validation study commissioned by NBPTS (Bond, Smith, Baker, & Hattie, 2000):

Brief additional mention should also be made of the deliberate design decision in the present
investigation to use measures of student achievement other than commercially or state-developed multiple-choice tests of generic academic subjects such as reading and mathematics.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to state that such measures have been cited as the cause of all of the nation’s considerable problems in educating our youth. To be sure, the overuse and misuse of multiple-choice tests is well documented. (p. 141)

This is an astounding statement. The authors of this study are not merely saying that there are problems with the use of standardized tests and that they prefer to use other methods, they are suggesting that the use of commercial and state-developed multiple-choice tests is the cause of the nation’s educational problems. To NBPTS, a superior teacher is one committed to a student-centered, constructivist style of instruction, regardless of whether the use of such practices produces gains in objectively measured student achievement (Ballou, 2003).

Most states seem unaware of the discrepancy and are committed to expanding NBPTS participation. They are investing millions on a program that they hope will improve academic achievement when, in fact, the program philosophy opposes singling out academic achievement as an unrivaled educational priority.


EdWonk said...

My biggest gripe with National Board Certification is that the application process is so expensive.

Here in this part of southern California, ALL of the expense of the application process is borne by the teacher.

Additionally, Board Certified teachers receive no additional compensation in my district. (350+ teachers)

The result is that we have NO nationally certified teachers.

I think that Board Certification is a fine idea that was never implemented properly.

Stiles said...

Given the resources dedicated to the NBTPS certification system, this is an issue well worth raising.

The most favorable thing that can be said based on the research is that some better gains are usually found. However, some of the studies also show that Board-certified teachers start with lower need classes.

And the question remains whether any of the increase in effectiveness can be attributed to the certification process or whether it just punches the ticket of teachers that were already more effective. It's a not inexpensive way to credential teachers if there is no value added.