Sewanhaka Details National Certification for Teachers

At least seven teachers in district beginning national board certification process.

Three years ago teacher Alice Bowman never heard of being nationally board certified. That was before she went through the process, which she explained in detail to the Sewanhaka Board of Education in a presentation with Christina Blanc during its regular meeting on December 17 at Sewanhaka High School.

“We thought it important for you to understand what it takes to be nationally board certified,” superintendent Dr. Ralph Ferrie said, “and we’d like to hopefully make this somewhat contagious in our district that more and more teachers avail themselves in this wonderful opportunity.”

National board certification is a voluntary certification similar to “board certified” doctors or accountants.

“I just decided I wanted to go for it,” said Bowman, who became certified in 2010. “Personally it helps me to strengthen my reflective skills so that I could become stronger on my own and so it empowered me to be able to see what my strengths were, what my weaknesses were and how to go about finding ways to strengthen where I need to strengthen.”

Those teachers who are certified are considered to be more effective than other teachers.

“It’s another way of saying you’re ‘highly effective,’ or you’re outstanding or you’re excellent, depending on the model that you’re using,” Bowman said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are highly effective teachers walking around who don’t have board certification, it’s just one avenue through which we can distinguish those teachers that are working towards being highly effective as compared to their colleagues who may or may not be as highly effective but just don’t have the recognition yet.”

Statistics show that students of board certified teachers outperform their classmates who are taught by non-board certified teachers.

Over 400,000 students were tracked over a three-year period and greater growth was seen by students in classrooms of board certified teachers.

The certification program began in 1983 after the “A Nation a Risk” report issued during the Reagan administration which was in answer to preparing students for the 21st century. It is based on national standards that have been created by educators for educators and used as a method to validate your teaching practice and a pathway for the professionalization of teaching.

“A lot of the teachers who get national board certification take on other responsibilities,” Bowman said. “They give back to the teaching profession, to the environment, to the communities where they work but they still make sure that they are teachers first and foremost.”

Certified teachers provide a deep understanding of content, which Bowman said are along the lines of what the state is implementing in the common core curriculum, including priorities like rigorous student-centered lessons that are geared toward higher-level thinking, project-based learning and differentiation of instruction. They must work together to obtain certification.

“It helps to promote that kind of of a culture in a building,” Bowman said, noting that she had been able to contact a team of teachers in another district as well as formulate a team in Sewanhaka. Board certified teachers can also help new or struggling teachers.

“One of the biggest things that I found was it strengthened the link between the community and the school,” Bowman said. “You’re not only looking at what you do in the classroom but you’re also looking at the child as a whole child and if you’re doing that honestly then you’re looking at what are the connections to the community that are there and how can you strengthen those.”

There are five core propositions: ensure teachers are committed to students and their learning; look at subjects and how they teach; managing and monitoring student learning, think systematically about their practice and learn from experience; members of learning communities.

Over 25 certification areas also exist for teachers to obtain certification, varying by content area and developmental age group of students. Over 95 percent of teachers are eligible to find certificates in their area of expertise.

Becoming certified requires a two-part assessment consisting of a portfolio assessment and a site-based assessment. It can take up to 3 years to certify a teacher. The portfolio assessment consists of four portfolio entries, the first being where student work is submitted along with a discussion about the work, why it was assigned and what student growth was observed as well as future lesson plans based on the results. The second and third components are video entries where teachers record themselves teaching in both whole and small group instruction that is then followed with a 10-15 page writeup along with analysis of the teacher’s actions both before, during and after. The fourth component is the teacher’s documented accomplishments outside of the classroom that impacts student learning.

The district’s “Take 1 Program” is a professional development tour being done at Floral Park Memorial where a video entry is taken and submitted for a score. The program can be completed by an  individual and then rolled over to their national review with the score banked without having to go through the whole certification process at one time.

The site based assessment comes in six parts where teachers are tested on content knowledge, knowledge of students in a timed computer test similar to GRE or LSAT exam setting

Floral Park Memorial had one teacher become nationally certified in 2010 and three candidates in 2011-12, with teacher Christina Brown achieving in her first go through, “which is not the typical way to go about doing it,” Bowman said. “She’s definitely above and beyond.”

Two advanced candidates are currently going through the process now. There are also seven people interested in doing “Take 1” with next year beginning the nationally board certification process.

Bowman has also been certified in 2011 as a candidate support provider to know how to coach others in becoming nationally certified

“Having this support both at a building and a district level has really made it a possibility for all of us and helped us to gain momentum,” she said.

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