Focus Pages 12-13
Teachers to District Needs
BY CAROLANN G. WADE
One of the great challenges for administrators today is identifying teacher leaders and building leadership capacity in the teaching ranks. My district, the 152,000-student Wake County, N.C., Public School System has used national board certification to grow leadership among teachers.
Wake County employs 2,290 teachers who have received certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (www.nbpts.org). That constitutes more than 20 percent of our teacher population, the highest percentage in a school district nationwide.
These teachers, who work in all grade levels as well as special education, school media, literacy, counseling, and career and technical education, regularly seek and serve in leadership roles within their classrooms and beyond. Our principals report their board-certified teachers take lead roles more frequently than others, typically in the areas of curriculum writing, curriculum mapping, student support and professional development.
Wake County’s board-certified teachers mentor beginning teachers and host student teachers from area universities. The universities invite these teachers to serve as guest speakers and as adjunct instructors for education courses. Board-certified teachers can articulate effective instruction, making them a great fit for in-service and preservice teacher training.
Our board-certified teachers help develop school improvement plans and design and implement strategies to meet the plan’s goals. They lead professional learning team meetings among and across grade levels. Many work on creating curriculum and support documents and attend training to share information with their colleagues.
A Culture Change
To become national board-certified, teachers must provide clear and convincing evidence of their roles as leaders and how those roles increased student learning. Once certified, these teachers must renew the certification every 10 years to maintain their status. The renewal requires them to demonstrate leadership abilities in more significant ways than during initial candidacy.
According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, about 100,000 teachers, or 3 percent of all K-12 teachers nationally, hold the advanced professional certification. A National Research Council study in 2008 found that students taught by board-certified teachers make greater gains on achievement tests than students taught by teachers without the certification. The principal at a Wake County elementary school with a group of teachers jointly pursuing certification noted that conversations among teachers went from complaining about students and workloads to discussing how to show evidence of leadership and ways to improve student achievement.
In 2002, when we tested the potential interest of our teachers, the school district held an information session, advertised on our system intranet. So many teachers showed up for the meeting that our superintendent, who came to speak, had to maneuver around teachers lining the hallways and sitting on the floor. The superintendent decided we needed a significant support system in place to help our teachers grow through this process.
My role for the past decade has been to oversee the Wake County schools’ support program for national board certification. I encourage teachers to pursue candidacy and keep them apprised of developments at the state and national levels. I run information sessions regularly and hire and supervise board-certified teachers to coach candidates pursuing certification through the process.
With 250 or more Wake County teachers involved in the process at any one time, we form cohorts to facilitate collaboration among colleagues in similar grade ranges and disciplines as they prepare portfolio entries. Support Saturdays are held for teachers to have a quiet place to work and have board-certified teachers available as coaches as the candidates analyze student needs, examine their pedagogy and add to their repertoire of teaching in collaborative, supportive venues.
Once board certified, a teacher in North Carolina receives a 12 percent salary supplement. Using these teachers to maximum effect inside schools is important.
At the district level, we survey our board-certified teachers to collect data on professional strengths, areas of experience and identified interests to create an information database. Then we can efficiently match leadership roles to board-certified teachers in areas where they may be most effective. When such opportunities arise, principals, curriculum specialists and professional organizations can contact me for recommendations of board-certified teachers.
To provide school-level support, Wake County identified a board-certified teacher at each school as its lead teacher. The lead teacher disseminates information and supports staff in any school where a team of teachers pursuing board certification together functions as a professional learning community.
To achieve certification, candidates must use assessment details to write and implement lessons that are data-informed to meet the needs of individual students. Assessment data is analyzed regularly by teachers at grade-level meetings to identify student learning needs. Wake’s board-certified teachers often lead team meetings involving assessment data analysis.
National board certification equips educators with the experience and confidence to advance to the next rung of leadership at school, district and state levels. Maintaining certification requires teachers to serve in significant leadership roles regularly. In Wake County, we have found board-certified teachers to be important vehicles for delivering effective instruction and for leading in and beyond the classroom.
Carolann Wade, a national board-certified teacher, is coordinator for national board certification in the Wake County Public School System in Cary, N.C. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org