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The following is Mary Ann Wolf’s “Final Word” from the Dec. 19, 2020 broadcast of Education Matters: “National Board Certification.” 


Over the past many months, we have been sharing the complexity of the roles that our schools — and in particular our teachers — grapple with as they strive to support each of their students academically, socially, and emotionally to reach their potential.

The complexity of teaching students with diverse needs, backgrounds, and interests is part of what attracts individuals to teaching and also what makes each year, each class, and each student a unique challenge for educators. As you talk with teachers across our state you also quickly realize that teachers are learners first.

They see themselves as growing in their practice and their understanding of how most effectively to teach their content area and their students. This past year has represented that more than ever as most teachers have had to adapt to remote and/or hybrid learning environments almost overnight.

But once again we have seen teachers participating in virtual professional learning, collaborating with each other, and trying new strategies to meet their students’ needs.

North Carolina educators demonstrate this in many ways, including the fact that North Carolina is the top state in the entire nation when it comes to the number of National Board Certified Teachers employed in our schools.

While each state determines its own teacher licensure and re-licensure requirements, for over 30 years the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards has worked to advance teaching through a voluntary National Board Certification process.

This is a very rigorous process requiring an intense investment of time, growth, and financial resources. Currently, the National Board Certification process is built upon five core propositions:

  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.

Educators can take anywhere from one to several years to gain National Board Certification. The process comprises four parts and includes an assessment component and portfolio requirement to demonstrate competency; the full certification process costs $1,900. Certification is granted for five years, and then teachers have the opportunity to apply for Maintenance of Certification.

North Carolina has over 22,000 NBCTs, more than any other state in the country; and nearly 3,000 educators are currently pursuing their certification. According to the recent DRIVE Task Force report, 9,300 NBCTs are currently in N.C. public schools. This is approximately 9% of our educators.

North Carolina provides subsidized loans for educators who want and need support for the financial commitment, and educators in North Carolina receive a 12% increase in pay while they maintain their National Board Certification.

National Board Certification offers many benefits to our students, schools, districts, and educators. Research from across the country shows that:

  • Students of NBCTs learn more — estimates of the increase in learning are on the order of an additional one to two months of instruction.
  • The positive impact of having a Board-certified teacher (NBCT) is even greater for minority and low-income students.
  • NBCTs have a much lower turnover rate than their non-Board Certified peers.

North Carolina has outpaced every other state in the country in terms of the number of NBCTs. However, a report released last week by the DRIVE Task Force, which Gov. Roy Cooper assembled to assess North Carolina’s progress on creating and sustaining a diverse educator workforce and develop a plan to strengthen and coordinate state efforts in this space, finds that our teachers of color are underrepresented among NBCTs. While teachers of color represent about 21% of our teacher workforce in North Carolina, teachers of color represent only 7% of our NBCTs.

National Board Certification can play an important role in bolstering the recruitment and retention of teachers and the diversity of our teaching force. This is true for educator growth and retention and our student outcomes.

North Carolina has invested in supporting teachers who want to earn Board certification through loans and through increases in salary for those who earn certification. Some districts, like Wake County, have gone even further to engage educators early in their National Board Certification journey by providing peer and cohort supports.

The number of NBCTs varies widely by school and district, and we can continue to find ways to engage teachers as a part of the critical overall efforts to recruit and retain a highly effective and diverse teacher workforce in North Carolina.

Mary Ann Wolf

Mary Ann Wolf, Ph.D. has served as President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina since June 2020, bringing with her more than 20 years of educational policy and leadership working directly with schools and districts across North Carolina to improve equity and build capacity for innovation.