Helping Teachers Make the Grade

Helping Teachers Make the Grade
NBPTS, HBCUs partner to prepare African American teachers for national certification   
By Phaedra Brotherton  

The role of historically Black colleges and universities in preparing Black teachers for national certification was highlighted during “Recreate the Legacy of Educational Excellence,” a half-day conference session sponsored by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) last month in Reston, Va.
NBPTS sponsored the session to discuss ways to partner with HBCUs, which produce nearly 50 percent of the African American teaching force, says Treopia Washington, NBPTS vice president of strategic partnerships. The purpose was to give HBCUs “an opportunity to view the direct correlation between the National Board’s Standards and teaching excellence — which is key to creating and revamping teacher education programs based on the Standards,” she says.
To become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), teachers volunteer to go through a rigorous assessment that includes a nearly year-long process of documenting their subject matter knowledge, showing evidence that they know how to effectively teach their subjects and demonstrating their ability to manage and measure student learning. According to the NBPTS, as of March 2002, more than 16,000 teachers across the United States have earned National Board Certification.
In 2000-2001, 148 out of 491 African American teachers who graduated from HBCUs and applied for certification were certified, according to Dr. Daria Thomas, a researcher for NBPTS.
Thomas, who is studying the differences between the success rates of White candidates and Black candidates, reported that the overall certification rate is 50 percent, but that there is a discrepancy when comparing the certification rate of White candidates and Black candidates. White teachers experience a 62 percent pass rate while Black teachers experience an 18 percent pass rate.   
Thomas is conducting adverse impact research to “find out why more African American teachers are not coming forward to be certified,” and “why they are not being certified at the same rate.”
The number of candidates appears to be on the rise, however. Last year, 333 African American primary and secondary teachers earned national board certification — the highest number ever in one year, reports the NBPTS. That brings the total to 623 African American primary and secondary certified teachers across the United States. States with the highest number of African American nationally board certified teachers are North Carolina (110), South Carolina (49), Florida (41), Mississippi (31) and California (25). 
The conference highlighted HBCUs’ efforts in realigning their teacher education programs with NBPTS standards, sponsoring support programs for teachers and partnering with school districts to recruit teachers for certification.
Dr. Vinetta Jones, dean of Howard University’s School of Education, talked about Howard’s work as a Center for Assessment and its commitment to encourage urban teachers from Maryland and Washington to become NBCTs. “Our goal has been to let them know that there is a support system for them,” she says.
Jones applauded the work of the NBPTS as well as the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) in providing the opportunity for HBCUs to share what is working for the various institutions. She noted that it’s important to have more Black NBCTs to ensure that Black students have qualified and caring teachers in front of the classroom. Quoting Marian Wright Edelman, Jones added, “We owe it to our children to do what we can to ‘leave no child behind.’ ”
Dr. Patricia Welch, dean of education at Morgan State University and president of the Baltimore City School Board, described the efforts being made to improve test scores and reading levels of Baltimore City students. Welch underscored the importance of certification in “providing structure, meaning to professional development and giving teachers a chance to improve their craft.” She also noted the role certification plays in instilling pride in outstanding teachers. “Teachers can wake up and say, ‘I know I’m good.’ Board certification can make that happen,” says Welch.    
The conference also spotlighted the efforts of several HBCUs in supporting teachers: 
• Florida A&M University is one of five resource centers for the NBPTS, charged with providing support to schools and teachers in a regional area of the United States.  In addition to work as a resource center, FAMU has done much work with the local school districts in creating awareness about the certification and its benefits, and has seen an increase in inquiries from teachers about the certification process. 
• South Carolina State University has joined with Claflin University and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College as part of the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant program to improve pre-service and in-service teacher programs for high-need school districts in South Carolina.
• Morgan State University and Coppin State College have joined with the Baltimore City Teachers Union and Baltimore City Public Schools to creatively promote certification and recruit more teachers to consider certification. Currently, there are only three NBCTs in Baltimore. The combined effort, which is considered a model program, seems to have been successful  — the name of 67 teachers will be submitted for certification. Morgan State and Coppin State College also have committed to developing support programs to help the teachers throughout the certification process. 

For more information, visit the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards at



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