25th Anniversary Celebration for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards

Remarks of Joanne Weiss, Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov

It's an honor to be here, and to be sandwiched between education luminaries like Secretary Riley, Michele Cahill, Governor Wise, and Governor Hunt.

In light of our list of distinguished speakers, I'm going to keep my comments brief. The Secretary is sorry he couldn't be here, but he asked me to make two points. First, he wanted me to give a big shout-out to the National Board for its tremendous accomplishments over the last quarter century. And second, he asked that I talk about some of the challenges—and very real opportunities—that lie ahead.

It is easy to forget now, but when the National Board started 25 years ago, it faced a lot of skeptics. Many educators and analysts thought the board had embarked on "mission impossible."

Your goal of creating professional standards for what teachers should know and be able to do was treated as a well-meaning fantasy. Educators and experts alike questioned whether the Board could really come up with valid ways to measure teacher quality and reliably distinguish excellent educators.

Today, it's clear that the National Board proved the skeptics wrong. You succeeded in creating, testing, and implementing rigorous assessments of teaching practice in 16 content areas that span 25 certificates. And you are committed to keeping your certifications current—as demonstrated by your newly updated mathematics and Reading Language Arts standards, aligned with the Common Core. You are truly demonstrating a rigorous approach across a wide-ranging set of content.

You also pioneered the use of videotaped classroom work and portfolios for evaluating teacher practice and student learning—two practices finally gaining real currency nationwide.

And the National Board's high-quality, multi-year professional development is credited by teachers with helping them to powerfully reflect on, and improve, their craft. Many call it the most powerful professional development they ever experienced.

Not coincidentally, the number of board-certified teachers has soared—from just 177 teachers in 1994 to more than 97,000 today. In North Carolina, Jim Hunt's home state, nearly one in five teachers is National Board certified.

I have to point out, too, how much the Obama Administration has learned from your work. Our new RESPECT program has the same essential mission the National Board has had for the last quarter century. We both seek to build a true profession for teachers—one anchored in demonstrated expertise and offering the career opportunities, autonomy, collaboration, compensation, and status that accrues to comparable professions.

And we need you—all 97,000 of the National Board certified teachers—to continue to lead the way.

We need you promoting career pathways that provide opportunities for increasingly responsible roles, whether teachers choose to stay in the classroom, become instructional leaders, or move into administration.

And we need your help rethinking teacher compensation so it's more aligned with teachers' effectiveness and levels of responsibility, so that it's high enough to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce, and so it's consistent with the societal regard accorded to comparable professions.

We need you to stay out in front, calling for distributed leadership and shared responsibility for schools where coalitions of principals and teacher leaders create cultures of continuous learning.

We need all of this—and then a little bit more.

We would like to see the National Board make student learning a core component that is systematically evaluated in each of the 25 certificate areas, building a robust link between Board certification and classroom effectiveness. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of linking your invaluable thinking about practice with evidence, taken from multiple sources, of student academic growth.

And we'd like to see the National Board continue to expand its ranks in school leadership positions, especially in the nation's highest need schools. Today, more than half—55%—of NBCTs teach in Title I-eligible, high-need schools. That's terrific—but it's not enough. Your voice can help make our neediest schools the most prestigious places to work in education, the capstone of great teachers' careers.

As you all know, when Secretary Duncan was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, he pushed for a dramatic expansion of National Board certified teachers. During his seven-year tenure, the number of NBCTs in Chicago's Public Schools went from 11 teachers to more than 1,200.

Even more encouraging, today, nearly 90% of Chicago teachers who became NBCTs are still teaching in CPS.

Chicago is a great example of extending the reach of NBCTs. But the country needs an accomplished teacher in every classroom. Instead of just 3 percent of teachers being NBCTs, we want every student to have effective teachers. That should be the norm, not the exception.

In other professions like medicine, accounting, engineering, and architecture, board certification is expected. About 90% of physicians are board-certified—and most of us would never consider going to one who wasn't.

As Ron Thorpe has said, NBCTs should not seek to become the MENSA of the teaching force. You should set the standard to which all members of the profession aspire. You have the Secretary's full support in scaling toward this goal.

Let me just close by saying a word about Ron Thorpe. I had the great pleasure to work with Ron in organizing the first two International Summits on the Teaching Profession. Ron is an outstanding teacher himself, and a scholar in the field. But on top of that, Ron is a smart, creative, deeply caring, can-do person.

It's no secret that in this era of tight budgets, earmarks are drawing to an end. That's hard for nonprofits like the National Board. And it's hard on education in general.

But in Ron, you have found an innovative fundraiser and, most importantly, a visionary leader. You couldn't have picked a better person to lead the organization into its next quarter-century.

So congratulations to Ron—and here's to another outstanding 25 years for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.


Notice of Language Assistance: English  |  español  |  中文: 繁體版  |  Việt-ngữ  |  한국어  |  Tagalog  |  Русский