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Perspective | National Board Certification: Advancing high-quality STEM teachers for NC

Welcome to our monthly feature on EducationNC called the NC STEM ScoreCard, written in partnership with the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (SMT) and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The previous edition of the STEM ScoreCard featuring the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation can be found here.

The goal of the NC STEM ScoreCard is to build broader awareness of how P-20 STEM* education is being nurtured across North Carolina and the impact on the well-being of our citizens and state. Three key questions framing this goal are: 

  1. In what ways does the state directly invest in programming and innovations that promote STEM learning?
  2. In what ways are significant philanthropies and other organizations supporting STEM education and learning in North Carolina?
  3. What measurable impacts is North Carolina realizing from its strategic investments?

*Note: STEM here is an acronym for Strategies That Engage Minds

Strategic investment in specific programs that increase the numbers, quality, and impact of STEM teachers in North Carolina is a central focus of the NC STEM ScoreCard. One of those investments is in the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Courtesy of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

What does it mean to have a National Board Certification?

As stated on the state Department of Public Instruction’s website, the National Board Certification, offered by the National Board For Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), is a way to recognize the accomplished teaching that is occurring in North Carolina’s classrooms. The certification process is based on high and rigorous standards that evaluate teaching practice through a performance-based assessment. The ultimate result is improved performance and achievement for North Carolina’s students.

The NBPTS mission is to advance the quality of teaching and learning by:

  • Maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do.
  • Providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards.
  • Advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.

At the core of the NB certification process are standards that describe the highest level of teaching in different disciplines and with students at different developmental levels. These standards represent a consensus among accomplished teachers and other education experts about what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. NBPTS Standards can be found at or here.

The NBPTS is designed to collect standards-based evidence of accomplished teaching across four components:

  • content knowledge
  • differentiation in instruction
  • teaching practice and classroom environment
  • effective and reflective practitioner

Five core propositions

First published in 1989 and updated in 2016, What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do articulates the National Board’s Five Core Propositions for teaching. The Five Core Propositions — comparable to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath — set forth the profession’s vision for accomplished teaching. Together, the propositions form the basis of all National Board Standards and the foundation for National Board Certification.

  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.

State rankings by total number of National Board Certified Teachers

North Carolina, with 22,635 NB certified teachers, had about 18% of the total number of NB teachers in the United States (125, 875) at the end of 2019. The financial incentives offered to teachers to prepare for the NB examination process and the significant salary boost (12% for 10 years and extended for re-certification) for achieving NB Certification have been effective in attracting teachers to the NB certification process.

Below is a current ranking of the top five states for NB certified teachers. For the most current numbers of candidates and the total number of NB teachers in each state and DC, click here.

Rank State Total NB Certified Teachers
1 North Carolina 22,635
2 Florida 13,552
3 Washington 11,368
4 South Carolina 9,226
5 California 7,329

Data on STEM-related certifications of National Board Teachers in North Carolina

Certification Legend for the table below:
GEN/EC – General Early Childhood
GEN/MC – General Middle Childhood
MATH/AYA – Math Adolescence and Young Adulthood
MATH/EA – Math Early Adolescence
SCI/AYA – Science Adolescence and Young Adulthood
SCI/EA – Science Early Adolescence

1995 3 10        
1996 22 24        
1997 19 18 14      
1998 102 77 23   24  
1999 189 161 43 30 50 11
2000 260 218 36 42 59 32
2001 276 215 53 41 49 30
2002 216 216 65 58 34 28
2003 282 206 56 76 37 41
2004 266 254 46 71 39 25
2005 212 247 25 76 46 23
2006 302 230 37 46 31 31
2007 308 200 54 42 54 23
2008 303 162 40 56 46 30
2009 264 157 48 60 42 29
2010 346 284 89 83 71 52
*2011 218 155 40 38 43 22
2012 98 81 23 29 31 22
2013 50 31 9 12 13 11
2014 65 34 14 22 24 10
2015 43 23 14 4 11 5
2016 10 14 4 7 3  
2017 85 45 30 37 18 26
2018 80 49 35 22 16 22
2019 130 68 31 28 24 18
Grand total 4149 3179 829 880 765 491

*The decline in numbers of NB teachers beginning in 2011 came about, in large part, because NB rolled out test components over a period of three years, thus not all components were available for teachers to access.

Research on the impact of NB Certification in North Carolina

As stated on the Department of Public Instruction’s website, there is consensus that teacher quality is the most important school-based variable determining how well a child learns. It explains why all Americans should care about what it will take to create and sustain a teaching workforce defined by accomplished practice.

Teachers who have participated in National Board Certification have overwhelmingly stated it is the most powerful professional development experience of their careers. They say the experience changes them as professionals and that through the process they deepen their content knowledge and develop, mastery and reflect on new approaches to working with their students.

According to research conducted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, teachers who have achieved National Board Certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) significantly outperform their peers who are not Board Certified on 11 of 13 key dimensions of teaching expertise. Based on student work samples, the study’s authors declared that National Board Certification “is identifying and certifying teachers who are producing students who differ in profound and important ways from those taught by non-certified teachers.”

Courtesy of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

What do the experts say?

Charlotte, NC (2010):
“We found that NBCTs were significantly more effective … than their non-NBCT counterparts in several EOC tested courses: Algebra II, Biology, Civics and Economics, Chemistry, and Geometry.”1

North Carolina, Ohio, and the Washington, D.C. area (2008):
“Seventy-four percent of student work samples in the classes of NBCTs were judged to reflect a level of deeper understanding … with twenty-nine percent of the work samples of [students] of non-NBCTs.”2

North Carolina (2007):
“We find consistent evidence that [Board certification] is identifying the more effective teacher applicants and that National Board Certified Teachers are generally more effective than teachers who never applied to the program.”3

Eligibility criteria for state funding

There is a deadline to apply for the loan each year or until all funds are dissolved, whichever comes first.

The loan ($1,900) can be borrowed by first-time candidates only and it will pay for all four Components. This loan cannot be used for renewal and retake candidates or borrowed in increments.

Candidates are eligible for the state loan program if they:

  • are paid entirely from state funds.
  • have completed three full years in North Carolina Public Schools (This includes DOC, DHHS, Office of Juvenile Justice, and public charter schools).
  • hold a valid, clear, continuing North Carolina teaching license.

To learn more about NBPTS in North Carolina

  • For more information about state assistance, completing the application, or candidate support contact Dr. Sonja Brown, NC Program Director, at 919-807-3358.
  • LaAlice Hopkins; North Carolina Association of Educators, Center for Teaching and Learning at 1-800-662-7924 x227.

To find the NB contact in every NC county, go to: NBC Coordinator.

Questions for maximizing this strategic investment in STEM teacher quality in North Carolina

  1. NB teachers are remarkable resources for North Carolina. How can the state and districts better leverage NB teachers to broaden their possible impacts on other teachers?
  2. What strategies are public and private teacher preparation programs in North Carolina using to capitalize on the considerable knowledge and skills of NB teachers generally and on STEM teacher preparation specifically? How could these strategies be shared across the state and beyond?
  3. Given the sustained decline in the number of STEM teachers seeking National Board Certification since 2011 (though up in 2019), are there policies the governor and General Assembly should consider in order to attract more STEM teachers, especially minorities and males to seek NB Certification?

Special thanks to Sonja Brown, Education Program Director Recognition and Advancement Programs, NC Department of Public Instruction and Richard Klein, Director, Communications, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for their considerable help in compiling this NC ScoreCard report. Send questions and comments on the NC STEM ScoreCard to

Show 3 footnotes
  1. Salvador, Samantha K., & Baxter, Andy (2010). National Board Certification. Impact on Teacher Effectiveness. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Center for Research and Evaluation, Office of Accountability.
  2. Cantrell, S., Fullerton, J., Kane, T., & Staiger, D. (2008). National Board Certification and Teacher Effectiveness: Evidence From a Random Research Assignment Experiment. Working Paper 14608. National Bureau of Economic Research.
  3. Smith, T., Baker, W., Hattie, J., & Bond, L. (2008). “A Validity Study of the Certification System of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards” in Assessing Teachers for Professional Certification: The First Decade of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Advances in Program Evaluation, Volume 11, 345-378. 13 Goldhaber, D., & Anthony, E. (2007). Can teacher quality be effectively assessed? The Review of Economics and Statistics 89(1), 134-150.
Charles Coble

Charles R. Coble, co-founder & partner of Teacher Preparation Analytics, was Professor of Science Education for 23 years and for 13 years Dean of the School of Education at East Carolina University.