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Betty Castor: President of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)


How do states and school systems support teachers who seek certification by the NBPTS? Can teachers obtain samples of exemplary portfolios prepared by those who have earned certification? How long does certification last, and how will teachers be re-certified when their initial certification expires? Are many teachers "promoted" out of the classroom when they become National Board Certified? Those are some of the questions the new National Board of Professional Teaching Standards president, Betty Castor, answers this week for Education World. Some of her responses may surprise you!

Last October, former teacher Betty Castor stepped into big shoes. She replaced James A. Kelly as president of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. The goal of this privately organized board, created in 1987, is to establish a voluntary national certification system to recognize and reward outstanding teachers.

Although National Board Certification has the Clinton administration's full support, many teachers and administrators still know very little about it. This week, Education World asked Betty Castor to explain some of the pertinent issues surrounding National Board Certification.

Education World: Last October, you became president of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. What inspired you to take on that role?

Betty Castor: I came to the presidency of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards with a background as a teacher, a legislator, the Florida commissioner of education, and the chief executive officer of the largest metropolitan state university in Florida. Accepting this position with the National Board gives me the opportunity to lead one of the most important education reform movements in this country. Progress in improving K-12 education in the United States must start in the classroom, with the teachers. Our focus is on accomplished teaching because excellence in teaching is a prerequisite to effective student learning.

EW: I understand there are more than 4,500 National Board Certified teachers at this time. What are your goals or projections for how those numbers might grow?

Castor: The number of National Board Certified Teachers has nearly tripled during each of the past few years. I hope to raise the number of National Board Certified Teachers from the current 4,803 to 100,000 by 2006.

EW: I just read Secretary Richard Riley's State of American Education address. He clearly promotes National Board Certification. In his February 22 address, Riley said

"I support the growing effort of states and school districts to create new incentives that encourage more of America's teachers to take the challenge to become National Board Certified. In California, a National Board Certified teacher can earn an extra $10,000, and Governor Gary Davis is now proposing an even bigger stipend."
That would certainly provide a boost to National Board Certification! What are some other ways the Department of Education, state legislatures, or principals can support teachers going through National Board Certification?

Castor: Many policymakers have stepped forward to support the work of the National Board, National Board Certified Teachers, and National Board Certification as an essential investment in teachers' professional development and in our children's futures. Faced with the challenges of improving learning in every classroom, state governors and legislators, local school boards, superintendents, and principals are backing National Board Certification as an effective means to upgrade teaching. Currently, 38 states and 163 local school districts have enacted one or more incentives for National Board Certification. Twenty-four states offer fee support to candidates seeking National Board Certification, 24 provide salary supplements to National Board Certified Teachers, 16 will waive state certification exams for National Board Certified Teachers who move to their state, and 19 offer continuing education credits for teachers who complete the National Board Certification process.

EW: What is involved in earning National Board certification?

Castor: The National Board Certification process includes assessments of teaching portfolios, student work samples, and videotapes and thorough analyses of a candidates' classroom teaching and student learning. Teachers also complete a series of written exercises that probe the depth of their subject-matter knowledge as well as their understanding of how to teach those subjects to their students. What is unique about National Board Certification is that it assesses not only the knowledge teachers possess but also the actual use of their skills and professional judgment in the classroom as they work to improve student learning.

EW: If a teacher does not certify the first time she or he tries, I know that person can "bank" his or her scores. Then the candidate has three years to try to bring up the scores. What if a candidate questions the assessment? Can he or she see the evaluation or speak to the assessors? What is the National Board Certification process like?

Castor: A teacher's portfolio and written examination for National Board Certification consist of a variety of exercises or entries. All teachers receive individual score reports for each exercise. Like other certifying bodies, the National Board does not assume responsibility to provide customized, individualized feedback. The National Board also maintains a policy on reconsideration of certification/scoring decisions that articulates the process and what constitutes good cause. Teachers who have completed an intensive training workshop and have qualified as assessors by demonstrating an understanding of the National Board standards, the directions to candidates, and the scoring guides evaluate entries. Teachers, especially National Board Certified Teachers, are invited to apply to serve as assessors after a thorough recommendation process that includes such sources as professional organizations, colleagues, National Board Certified Teachers, and teacher recognition programs. They must be actively engaged as teachers in the field and teach students at the same level as the students taught by the candidates whose responses they score.

EW: The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards provides no samples of previously scored portfolios. Might those be made available soon?

Castor: The National Board anticipates offering, by early next year, examples of accomplished entries as professional development tools for teachers and teacher educators.

EW: Although some states support teachers who go through National Board Certification, many do not. Are any cyber or correspondence courses available to help those teachers? What advice could you give teachers going through this process as "lone wolves"?

Castor: At this time, there are no cyber or correspondence courses. Although the assessment is an individual activity, a team of helpers is important for some of the tasks involved. Collaborating with other candidates and National Board Certified Teachers can ease the process. As more teachers seek National Board Certification, more "candidate support" programs are developing throughout the country. These programs may consist of groups of candidates working together, disciplinary associations and professional teaching organizations offering workshops, universities offering direct support during the process and/or for pre-candidacy, or state-funded support through departments of public instruction.

EW: Some teachers believe they must seek re-certification around their seventh year after certification, and some teachers who certified early are currently in their sixth year. What will the re-certification process be like? What should these teachers do?

Castor: A National Board Certificate is valid for ten years from the date of certification. It is anticipated that the renewal criteria and process will be presented to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards board of directors in October 2001 and made available to the first cohort of National Board Certified Teachers in November of 2002. Renewal will be based on the National Board's five core propositions for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. National Board Certified Teachers will submit evidence and write commentary that ties the evidence of their continued practice to the five core propositions.

EW: After teachers certify and are singled out as special, do they tend to stay in the classroom or are they "promoted" out of it?

Castor: One of the goals behind the creation of National Board Certification was to provide accomplished teachers with career recognition and advancement that rewards them for staying in the classroom, where they have demonstrated their ability to impact student learning. To date, fewer than 10 percent of National Board Certified Teachers have left the classroom, and some of those are due to retirement. More important, with the advent of National Board Certification, schools are restructuring how they do business and are capitalizing on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers. They are combining classroom practice with leadership roles that may involve mentoring new teachers, advising on curriculum, and advising teacher education programs within local colleges and universities.

EW: What would you like to have accomplished by the time you finish your term as president? What would you like to have listed as your achievements?

Castor: This teacher/policymaker collaboration around the work of the National Board is revitalizing the largest profession in America -- teaching -- and holds the potential to transform schooling, to enhance the current investment in teaching, and to build a system where increasing public investment in education is a worthy investment in the future. I want to raise the National Board's profile and influence both within and beyond the field of education. I envision a revitalized system of American education in which the National Board's vision of accomplished teaching -- as embodied in our standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do -- is integrated and accessible to all teachers throughout their professional lives.


  • Talk to Other Teachers This is a link from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards home page. Teachers going through the certification process can share information and offer one another support.
  • National Certifications Triple Since Last Year This December 1, 1999, article from Education Week on the Web lists the number of teachers who now have National Board Certification and comments from Betty Castor, president of the organization.
  • Castor To Head Board Certifying Outstanding Teachers This August 4, 1999, article from Education Week on the Web introduces the new president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, Betty Castor. Her primary responsibility will be fundraising and persuading lawmakers to craft incentives and rewards for teachers to become board-certified.


  • "Riley Urges National Standards for Teachers" This February 17, 1999, Washington Post article describes Education Secretary Richard Riley's plan to improve the quality of teaching forces by adopting a set of uniform national standards on how teachers get licensed, evaluated, and rewarded.
  • National Board Certification: A Candidate's Guide This joint National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers guide includes sources of support as well as tips on studying, preparing portfolios, and setting schedules. The guide represents an AFT/NEA joint commitment to National Board Certification.

Glori Chaika
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

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