National board certified teachers: the new professionals?
Bassett, Jonathan Anderson
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Supporters of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), founded in 1987, hoped that its certification process would create a cadre of publicly recognized master teachers who would take on professional roles that have traditionally been the responsibility of administrators rather than teachers. Such a change would allow teaching to become a true profession, regulated collegially instead of bureaucratically. A national survey of national board certified teachers (NBCTs) administered in 2001 found little evidence that they were in fact taking on new professional roles. This study examines fifteen schools with large numbers of NBCTs in three North Carolina school districts to determine if NBCTs in these exceptional places are gaining new professional roles, and what factors are enabling or preventing that change. Telephone interviews were conducted with state level officials in North Carolina, district level officials in each of the school districts, and one NBCT, the principal, and one non-NBCT at each school. Interviews were transcribed and coded for analysis. The results indicate that NBCTs in these schools are not taking on significant new professional roles as a result of their certification, and suggest two reasons for this lack of change. One is structural: the NBPTS, the state of North Carolina, and the three school districts studied appear to have narrowed the focus of national board certification so that it is concerned primarily with identifying and rewarding excellence in classroom teaching. This study found few explicit attempts to use NBCTs in professional leadership roles or to provide them with opportunities for professional leadership in addition to classroom teaching. Another concerns the perceived validity of the certification process: board certification is not broadly accepted among study respondents as a consistent and accurate designation of teaching excellence. The results of this study also raise questions about the persistence of egalitarian norms among teachers in schools with significant numbers of NBCTs.
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