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There is a quiet movement in education to bring the good news of accomplished teaching to light. While public perception is fixated where educational change is slow, there is a new realization that progress can be seen if one knows where to look.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards ( and National Board Certification has been one of the best kept secrets in the education profession for over 30 years. Near the top of the Professional Career Continuum for Teaching (, Board Certified Teachers comprise less than three percent of all teachers nationally, yet the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards distinctive footprint is everywhere.

Surprisingly, many people in and out of education recognize the National Board’s amazing work, yet do not know whom to credit. If it has anything to do with accomplished teaching and learning, you can bet the National Board tenets are at the foundation. In a similar time 30+ years ago, the National Board was created in response to an outcry that public education was failing (sound familiar?). Through the years, the National Board has kept true to its mission of creating rigorous standards for accomplished teaching “by teachers for teachers”, advocating for student learning, and promoting the profession. Since then, everything from state, university, and national teaching standards, as well as preservice and educator effectiveness evaluations have been patterned after the National Board Five Core Propositions (, teaching standards, and rigorous assessments.

The certification process is voluntary, covering 25 certificate areas and four developmental areas. Teachers with a degree, teaching license, and three years experience can attempt the certification by completing the four Components anytime within three years.  An additional two years is available if necessary for any resubmission to achieve the accomplished designation. Each Component addresses the content, skills, and dispositions an accomplished teacher should know and be able to do. Teachers must prove their content knowledge at an assessment center, demonstrate they can plan, differentiate, and assess students for learning, submit two videos covering different instructional formats and strategies, and lastly demonstrate they can effectively use data, instruction, and assessment to address a student learning challenge along with contributing to the professional learning community, then reflect for learning.

With all the negativity surrounding education today, it is a true anomaly that more and more teachers are committing to certification to prove they have what it takes to achieve at the highest level in their profession. There are some great benefits to certification including:

Evidence/Research Based

Multiple research studies ( conclude that having a National Board Certified Teacher in the classroom affects student learning in multiple ways. Recent studies indicate that National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) stay in the profession longer, have students perform at higher levels, and is roughly equivalent to up to two additional months of instruction in certain subjects.  

Targeted Focus on Skills

Teachers are challenged to demonstrate areas of strength and identify areas of need through a highly reflective process. Teachers work within their own instructional context to provide evidence of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that have a positive impact on student learning. Through the course of these rigorous exercises, teachers who were surveyed identify improvement to their practice whether or not they certify.

Professional Opportunities

National Board Certification incentivizes teachers to stay in the classroom by providing leadership opportunities, professional accreditation, and, in some cases, financial benefits at the district and state level. The St. Mary’s University Master of Arts in Education – Wisconsin program supports Board Certification through its courses and mentoring of candidates, furthering professional growth.

Agent for Change

In times of revolving initiatives that provide a one size fits all form of professional development, the National Board process is widely known as the “gold standard for professional development and educator effectiveness”, impacting teachers more personally as they direct their own learning through deep reflection as guided by the process.

There are many reasons to take up the challenge of National Board Certification, but the most important is for the proven benefit to student learning. If you know a great teacher, pay them a compliment and suggest they are National Board material. Our students will thank you!

Written by: Catherine Anderson a retired middle school science teacher of 34 years. She is an instructor with St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in the Master of Arts in Education – Wisconsin program and a guest teacher with the Eau Claire Area School District in Wisconsin. A National Board Certified teacher, Anderson is a professional learning facilitator for national board candidates and serves on the board of directors for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.