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State vs. National Certification
by Stephanie Blackburn

Stephanie Blackburn is working toward National Board Certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist.

September 29, 2003

Rhode Island State certification requires teachers to earn nine graduate credits every five years. Those credits can be a combination of three continuing education units (CEUs) and six graduate level credits. CEUs can be acquired through workshops, conferences, or other types of professional development.

If I only had to achieve National Board Certification, do I think such certification would adequately assess my competency to teach in my particular city, state, or region? Yes, I think it would. Due to the manner of the process and the scoring of the portfolios, I think the national certification process demonstrates a person's ability to teach much better than do nine graduate level credits.

The entries candidates need to write are reflective of their teaching and its impact on student learning. I have to prove my contributions to the educational field as a learner, as a leader, and as a member of my community, and then tie it to my classroom practices. I need to provide documentation of what I've learned during the past five years, along with proof (video tapes and actual student work) that I'm applying effective methods in my classroom. Then, I am assessed by a group of my peers with rigorous rubrics. They look to make sure you've done what you have said you have. Is she walking the walk? Isn't the point of certification to prove that you are worthy to continue to teach? To stay current with methods and strategies?

The National Board certification process goes above and beyond Rhode Island's certification requirements -- checking whether methods and practices are being applied, rather than merely learned.

Do I think I would have been ready for this process after just graduating from college? No. As a first year teacher, you are dealing with many other procedures, issues, etc. (as reflected in the writing of past years' diarists). I think the task of all the writing and documentation would be overwhelming that first year. As a teacher with more than three years experience, though, I think the process is more beneficial than attending a class once a week. As educators, we need to be more focused on our time and energy. The National Boards have helped me more than hundreds of hours of professional development has. I find myself asking, "Is this going to impact student learning?" If the answer is yes, than I keep doing it; if the answer is no, I find something that does. The National Board certification process has truly helped me focus on the importance of me learning, and on improving, student achievement.

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Meet Stephanie Blackburn

Stephanie Blackburn, one of Education World's 2002-2003 teacher diarists, received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Rhode Island in May 1994. For the first two years of her teaching career, Stephanie worked as an enrichment specialist in the talent development program for the Westerly, Rhode Island, school district. For the past seven years, she has taught fourth grade at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly. Stephanie was awarded a 2002 National Educator Award by the Milken Family Foundation, in a program that provides recognizes elementary and secondary school teachers, principals, and other education professionals who are furthering excellence in education.

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