Better trained teachers lead to improved performance and achievement for North Carolina’s students. That’s the argument that won over the General Assembly in 1995 when it passed legislation to award teachers who earn National Board Professional Teaching Standards certification (NBPTS) automatic salary increases of 12 percent. In addition, the legislation also allowed teachers to be reimbursed by the state for up to $2,500 in costs related to acquiring certification. The law has helped to make North Carolina home to over 11,300 NBPTS certified teachers, by far, the highest number of any state in the nation.
In a new study, “The Effects of NBPTS-Certified Teachers on Student Achievement,” two researchers, Douglas Harris and Tim Sass test the effectiveness of NBPTS certified teachers in Florida in the areas of math and reading. The results are instructive. Harris and Sass found that while NBPTS teachers may be above peer teachers initially, after receiving certification, many of these teachers tend to lose their edge. More important, Harris and Sass found that math teachers, who become certified, end up being more effective with high achieving students. But when working with students from low-socioeconomic status, researchers found no difference in effectiveness between certified and non-certified teachers.Bottom line: The efficacy of NBPTS as a tool for improving student learning is questionable, at best.
Specific costs for the NBPTS program in NC are hard to gather, but my conservative estimates place costs in the $7-$9 million range, most likely more. Is the public investment worth it if there is no increase in student achievement? The education establishment won’t likely give this report a second look. You should.