A rigorous assessment program designed to recognize and reward excellent teachers, National Board Certification was established to "professionalize the profession". Established in 1987 by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), National Board Certification gives acknowledgement to our best teachers by providing an opportunity to pursue the accomplishment and recognition that other professionals, like doctors and architects, pursue in their areas of specialty. More than 150 studies indicate that National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) make a significant and measurable impact in their schools, and the process is regarded the finest single professional development program available to teachers today. National Board Certification is an advanced teaching credential that complements, but does not replace, a state's teacher license. It is valid for 10 years, after which NBCTs can seek certification renewal.
To pursue National Board Certification, a teacher must hold a baccalaureate degree and have three years of teaching experience on a provisional or standards certificate (no emergency or intern) in early childhood, elementary, middle, or secondary schools prior to submitting an application. In addition, a teacher must hold a valid teaching license/credentials during those three years.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offers 25 certificates that cover a variety of subject areas and student developmental levels. These certificates cover 95% of PreK-12 teachers. As teachers pursue National Board Certification, they will be required to complete four components that demonstrate their practice in these areas:
- Content knowledge and differentiation of instruction through analysis of student work and an assessment center experience (Components 1 and 2)
- Teaching practice and learning environment through video analysis (Component 3)
- Documented evidence of effective and reflective practices through work outside the classroom and evidence of how that work impacts student learning (Component 4)
The Arizona Education Association was instrumental in bringing National Board Certification to Arizona. The first Arizona teacher to gain certification is the Center's own Executive Director, Kathy Wiebke, in 1996. She remembers how going through the process truly changed the teaching climate in her school. "It really strengthened my relations with other teachers," says Wiebke. "Because I needed help, for the first time we had substantive conversations about teaching and learning. Many of those colleagues have since become certified themselves."
With the program still in its infancy, Wiebke had no in-state support whatsoever. She recalls how much more difficult this made it for her: "I had so many misconceptions about the process, that I spent as much time worrying about it as I did the work." This experience has motivated her to help make it easier for Arizona's teachers today. "I want to make sure no one ever goes through the process that blindly again."
NBC gained momentum in 1997, when Arizona State University received an endowment from the Bank of America to support teachers seeking National Board Certification. Increased funding opened the door for more teachers to pursue and attain certification through an organized system of candidate support.
Nancy Shakowski, former Western States Regional outreach director for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, sees the progress that has been made in the state. "None of the other Western States have pre-candidacy support to this degree, and are as organized on a statewide level to deliver a program of support. This is thanks in large part to Kathy's vision and leadership, and to the work of the Arizona K12 Center."
There are currently 1,078 NBCTs in Arizona.