Here is the letter I sent this morning to all of our legislators regarding the National Board and ELO programs:
I know that you have a busy session ahead of you, and I appreciate the
time you will take to read this - especially those of you on the
Education Committee. I am sorry that none of you could make it to the
NBCT support and training meeting you were invited to on Saturday,
February 14th. I hope you will be able to visit the next one. Your
invitation will be arriving soon. In the mean time, I wanted to provide
something for you to think about as you consider all of the bills that
will affect the National Board process here in Oklahoma. This isn't
brief, so please have a few minutes before you read it. I could make it
brief or accurate. I chose accurate.
First, let me say I am not going to keep mentioning the broken promise
to current NBCTs. I believe the funding was there, and our
Superintendent chose not to give it to the people it belonged to. I
sincerely hope you will fix that, and take that power away from her. In
that light, you need to know why you should do so.
1. Oklahoma's National Board program is recognized as one of the best
in the country. According to the last numbers I received, 75% of
National Board candidates certify nationwide. In Oklahoma, that number
is 93%. That says something, not only about the quality of our
teachers, but about the program we have to support them - the ELO
2. There are just over 97,000 National Board Certified teachers in this country. Oklahoma has almost 3,000 of those.
3. At the end of this letter, I have attached a copy of a letter to the
editor of the Oklahoman written by the President of the National Board
for Professional Teaching Standards. He provides data regarding the
test scores of students taught by National Board Certified Teachers.
Evidence shows that they are higher than those of students taught by
4. Ask the National Board Certified Teachers, and they will tell you
they are a better teacher for going through the process. To that end, I
will tell you my personal story.
I am an alternatively certified elementary school teacher. Prior to
becoming a teacher, I was an attorney and had never taken an education
class. I have been teaching for the past 7 years. I was hired two
weeks before school started that first year, and when I asked what I was
supposed to teach I was told, "Teach the PASS skills." I had no idea
at that time what a PASS skill was. I was on my own as far as figuring
out how to teach. I knew the material - no question. What I didn't
know was how to plan a lesson, how to evaluate a student or how to
evaluate myself. I had a mentor teacher who would help me through that
first year. She taught me where to find the PASS objectives, how to use
them and where to find the district calendar showing me when to teach
what. She helped me find all of my teacher's editions, and she showed
me how to handle the administrative side of teaching. She was a great
woman, and I was blessed to have her as a mentor.
However, I also had another mentor. This one was an unofficial mentor.
He was a 6th grade teacher going through the National Board process. I
had not heard of it, nor - at that time - did I know the sheer amount
of work and time it took to finish. During this very intense year for
him, he took the time to introduce me to the National Board process, and
more importantly to the National Board Standards. They are as follows:
1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
5. Teachers are members of learning communities.
My mentor not only talked me through all of these standards, but he
showed me what they meant. I'd like you to notice that the first
standard is about commitment to students. That is because first and
foremost, NBCTs are dedicated to their students and to helping them
learn. Regardless of whatever is going on in their lives our ours.
Regardless of politics. Regardless of the increasing amount of
paperwork & other things that take away from our time. No matter
what, we WILL teach our students because those are the people we are
accountable to. That is what I was taught that first year. It is all
about the students. That year, I made a plan. I was going to be an
NBCT. After my third year (the first year I would be eligible), I was
going to assess for National Boards so that I could get a good idea
about what was expected. After my fourth year, I was going to apply for
a scholarship. If I got it, I was going to apply after my fifth year.
If not, I was going to keep applying until I did. Face it, on a
teacher's salary, there was no way I was going to be able to afford the
$2500 application fee without years to save up.
In the meantime, I had work to do. Evenings, weekends and summers were
spent doing professional development. All of it was geared toward
learning how to create lessons that covered the PASS objectives,
integrated multiple subjects and engaged students and learning more
about the subjects I was weak in. Because I was alternatively
certified, I had 3 years to take 190 hours of professional development
in order to get my permanent teaching certificate. I earned over the
required number of hours in my first year. I have continued that
process every year, and along the way I started speaking at conferences
and teaching professional development sessions of my own - sharing what I
learned and developing that professional learning community of Standard
After my third year, I did assess for National Boards. After my 4th
year, I did apply for and receive a scholarship. During my 5th year, I
did apply for National Board Certification. I was told that I was
crazy, that I hadn't been teaching long enough, but I wanted to try
anyway. It is a three year process. If I made it in one, great. If it
took me three, that was fine too. If I didn't certify after that, I'd
start all over again. I know what makes a good teacher, and I was going
to demonstrate that I could do it.
As much as I thought I knew going into the process, there was so much
more I didn't know. Up until that point I had been reflecting on other
people's work. Now it was time to analyze my own. Fortunately for me,
all of that professional development helped. Throughout all four of the
portfolios for the National Board application, the common strand is
student impact. How is my teaching impacting my students? How am I
learning from my previous lessons and experiences and changing so that
the impact is greater? How does the professional development I take
impact my students? How do I share it with my colleagues and help them
impact their students? How does my interaction with the community
impact my students? All of this had to be demonstrated in my writing
and submitted with evidence backing it up - including 2 video taped
lessons. Then I had to demonstrate my knowledge of the material I teach
(and even some I don't) with six assessments. Because we have no
knowledge of what we are going to be asked about each subject, we must
prepare for anything and everything. I was applying for a Middle
Childhood Generalist certification. That meant I would be tested on
Math, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Arts Integration and Health
(focusing on recognizing health issues of my students, not teaching
of). The age range was from 2nd grade to 6th, and my questions on those
subjects could come from any of those grade levels.
In each of the 4 portfolios and 6 assessments there is a reflective
portion. This means that I was required to demonstrate that I could
look at what I taught, explain why I taught it to these particular kids
at this particular time, how it worked, what were the problems, what
would I do if I did it again, how did it impact what I taught next and
more. This process taught me how to make sure what I teach is relevant
to the kids I have right now, and it made sure that I will never do a
lesson without evaluating both the lesson and my teaching afterward.
this entire process, I received support from the Education Leadership
program. Mentor meetings, professional development, and yes, the
scholarship. I had people to help me proofread my entries, people to
help me study for the assessments, people to clarify the almost 400
pages of instructions for the process, people to help me keep my focus
and people help me see things in my teaching that I didn't before. They
gave me resources to enhance my lessons, helped me understand what some
of the problems were that I was running into and helped me figure out
how to fix them. All of this was (and is) invaluable.
You want to reward excellent teachers. The 5 Standards NBCTs demonstrate
are exactly what make an excellent teacher. There are other teachers
out there who demonstrate those qualities and are not NBCTs. However,
those who have certified have already demonstrated that excellence. Why
would you end a program of such high quality that shows proven
results? That $5,000 a year stipend is well earned by the teachers who
have gone through the process. It is a demonstration of Oklahoma's
commitment to excellence, and it lets those teachers see that their hard
work is recognized and rewarded. If you want to fund and create
additional ways to recognize good teachers, fine. However, to destroy
this program and all it stands for would be a huge step backwards and a
good way to insure that excellent teachers not only do not move to
Oklahoma, but that they start leaving in increasing numbers. Evidence
shows that the NBCT program works. It also shows that "merit pay" does
not. How you choose to act now tells us a lot about what our value is
I have taken you through part of my journey as a teacher in this
letter. It is certainly not all of it, nor is it the end of it.
However, you want to see the results of this program that taught me how
to be a teacher. In my 5th year of teaching, I was nominated for
Teacher of the Year. In my 6th year, I was nominated for Teacher of the
Year. In this, my 7th year, I was chosen as Teacher of the Year for my
school, and I am in the top 5 finalists for District Teacher of the
Year. We won't find out for a while yet who the winner of that award
is. However, even if I stay in the top 5, out of 1400 teachers in my
district, I'd say that's a good start. A teacher from my school hasn't
been chosen as a finalist in about 25 years. I am one of two recipients
of the 2011 S.K.I.E. award from the K20 Center at OU. This award
recognizes outstanding teachers who have demonstrated innovation in
technology integration in their classrooms and schools. The 2nd award
winner for 2011 was my colleague, friend and an NBCT herself, Regina
Hartley. And yes, I am now a National Board Certified Teacher.
I realize this was long, and I thank you for taking the time to read
it. I also encourage you to come and talk to us at any of our
meetings. We meet in Norman twice a month to support candidates going
through the NBCT process even though the program is under attack by our
leaders. Other meetings occur around the state at least monthly.
The only thing that needs to change about the ELO program and the
National Board stipends is the removal of the language "subject to
availability of funds" and the ending of the moratorium. Unless of
course, you would like to increase the amount of scholarships
available. That would be an amazing step forward in Oklahoma education.
Christine Paradise, NBCT
Here is the letter I mentioned above:
On February 11, 2012, the Oklahoman published a letter to the editor by
Robert Holland, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute in Chicago,
with the headline, "Teacher Bonuses Don't Result in Improved Student
Achievement." He asks, "whether this heavily subsidized system initiated
largely by national teachers union leaders 20 years ago produces a
reasonable return in improved student achievement." I question Mr.
Holland both on the facts and his interpretation of the report which he
sites for his conclusion.
The 2008 report, Assessing Accomplished Teaching: Advanced-Level
Certification Programs, was produced by the National Research Council
(NRC) following a request by Congress to develop a framework for
evaluating programs that offer advanced-level certification to teachers.
The report found that students taught by National Board Certified
Teachers make higher gains on achievement tests than those taught by
teachers who are not Board Certified. The findings are based on an
analysis of the studies that the NRC says meet standards of sound
scientific research, including new analyses commissioned by the NRC.
According to the report, the "evidence is clear that National Board
Certification distinguishes more effective teachers from less effective
teachers with respect to student achievement." The NRC acknowledged
research showing that National Board Certification has a positive impact
on teacher retention and, based on its analyses, noted that National
Board Certified Teachers are likely to stay in teaching longer than
other teachers. It further found that the National Board Certification
process is an effective professional development experience that
positively affects teaching practices and that the NBPTS Standards and
National Board Certification have taken the culture of teaching to a
Additional research further confirms the NRC finding that NBCTs increase
student learning and achievement. Just released teacher evaluation data
from Hillsborough County, Florida, one of the selected sites for The
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Measures of Effective Teaching
(MET) project, show that National Board Certified Teachers rank nearly
one full standard deviation (0.9) higher than non-Board Certified
Teachers when trained evaluators combine scores from written evaluations
and valued added measures. National Board Certified Teachers make up
only 5% of all Hillsborough teachers, and yet half of them scored in the
top 20% of the evaluations. This is powerful affirmation of the
National Board process.
First recognized in 1996 by the Education Leadership Act passed with the
support of former Republican Governor Frank Keating, the National
Board's program in Oklahoma continues to be robust. The 2,994 National
Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) in Oklahoma represent the ninth highest
number in the nation. Regarded as some of the most accomplished
teachers in the nation, National Board Certified Teachers are routinely
in the ranks of State Teachers of the Year and four of the last eight
National Teachers of the Year have been National Board Certified,
including Kristen Shelby, Oklahoma's 2012 State Teacher of the Year, a
fourth grade teacher from Hollis Public Schools.
These are facts. But as we all know, despite the importance of data,
stories are what move people whether it is the local rancher, the cop on
the street, or a state legislator. In the last two weeks alone I have
been with National Board Certified Teachers in Illinois, Maine, North
Carolina, New Mexico and Arizona. The stories are the same everywhere:
when teachers - especially teachers concentrated in a single school - go
through the National Board Certification process, they are transformed
as individuals, and as individuals they are transforming their
classrooms and schools.
I invite the readers to contact anyone associated with Loma Linda School
in rural New Mexico, very close to the Mexican border and serving some
of our nation's poorest and at risk children. With the vision of an
assistant principal - who is a National Board Certified Teacher - the
entire school faculty participated in the National Board Certification
process in the 2010-11 school year. Student scores increased by 9% in
math and 5% in English language arts and the school achieved Annual
Yearly Progress (AYP) for the first time in its history.
I invite readers to contact anyone associated with the Mitchell
Elementary School in Chicago, IL where more than 90% of children are on
free and lunch reduced status and are Black or Latino. There a principal
- who is also a National Board Certified Teacher - who has built up his
team so that 70% of his teachers are National Board Certified. Anyone
can go on line and look at how student test scores have risen,
especially on 3rd grade reading, as he has strengthened the capacity of
But why should that be a surprise. In the end, whatever business or
enterprise we are engaged in, it is always the quality of the people who
matter. Education is no different: the quality of a school cannot
exceed the quality of its teachers. National Board Certification both
identifies those who are accomplished teaching and the process itself
leads to higher quality practice. Ask the teachers. Ask their students.
Their stories speak for themselves.
After three years in which no state funding was provided due to severe
budget shortfalls, the Oklahoma state legislature is now poised to
consider restoring funding for the National Board program. Rep. Mike
Brown's bill to fund the stipends out of the state's general revenue
fund could be voted on in the upcoming session, which starts this month.
Last spring, House unanimously passed Resolution 1035 which recognized
the value of National Board Certified Teachers; expressing intent that
scholarships and bonuses for new applicants be funded as soon as budget
restraints allow. By enacting legislation that would restore state
funding, NBCTs would again receive salary stipends which had been
promised to them.
Our willingness as a society to invest in human capital is ultimately
the only sustainable way to build our communities, our states, and our
country. The National Board is dedicated to that proposition. I believe
the people of Oklahoma are, too.
President and CEO
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards