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The Whiteboard Jungle: The expected prestige of National Board certification hasn’t paid off

Back in 2003, I earned my National Board certification. If you don’t know what that is, you are not alone.

Established in 1987, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, or NBPTS, is an independent, nonprofit organization working to advance accomplished teaching for all students.

Its noble goal was to elevate the teaching profession to the level of doctors and attorneys by offering teachers a doctorate degree of sorts.

And, like the bar exam, it would create a certification process rigorous enough so not all applicants would pass on the first attempt.

The certification process requires videotaping multiple classroom lessons and writing dozens of pages analyzing student work and reflecting on one’s practice.

While sometimes grueling, I found the process more rewarding and relevant than the work I did for my master’s degree.

Plus, the NBPTS encouraged school districts and states to reward those who earned certification with a bonus, something unheard of in the teaching profession.

Many did reward teachers, though to varying degrees. North Carolina was a standout in the country, giving five-figure annual bonuses.

Glendale Unified provides some additional money, but expects the National Board teacher to work extra hours, which makes no sense.

Teachers with master’s and doctorate degrees receive annual stipends without having to work more, so why should National Board teachers do so?

Also, the district never promoted the practice by offering to pay for part or all of the $1,500 fee to go through the process (when I applied, the fee was $2,300).

The goal of the board was to have 100,000 certified teachers by 2003.

That didn’t happen.

By 2007, only 60,000 teachers had achieved certification.

Ten years later, the number is finally above 100,000, equating to just over 3% of total teachers in the country.

One catch, though. Unlike a college degree which, once earned, never needs renewal, the NBPTS requires teachers to renew their certification every 10 years — at a cost of $1,250.

That I did not do, yet I still view myself as a National Board certified teacher. Once earned, no fee should strip that designation away.

This past summer, the board was soliciting certified teachers to work over the summer at the professional rate of — get ready — $25 an hour. My electrician charges me $100 an hour.

The Princeton Review pays high school graduates $22 an hour to tutor, yet the NBPTS pays just $3 more for a teacher with a college degree who took a fifth year in order to earn a teaching credential and has earned National Board certification.

It doesn’t make any sense, which is why I contacted Peggy Brookins, president and chief executive of NBPTS.

Here’s a portion of the letter:

As much as I would like to work with other noted educators around the country, I wanted to let you know why I am not submitting an application to do this work: the low remuneration of $25 per hour.

What surprises me is of all the organizations to spotlight high-quality teaching talent, one would think that the NBPTS would be the one to recognize the importance by compensating [board-certified teachers] adequately, commensurate with their expertise to the field of teaching.

I never received a reply.

Imagine that. The head of the organization that purports to lead the charge for the best and brightest in the land, yet has no time to respond to one of its own.

Beyond higher pay, NBPTS’s hope was for those in charge of running schools to view National Board teachers as resources, experts in the field of education.

I would like to tell you about all the exciting opportunities my school district offered me in helping them shape education policy and set curriculum standards. But I’m still waiting.

BRIAN CROSBY is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District and the author of “Smart Kids, Bad Schools” and “The $100,00 Teacher.” He can be reached at www.brian-crosby.com.

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