There has been a groundswell of Arizona teachers applying for the most respected professional certification in K-12 education.
Last year, the state allocated funds to cover the cost of the National Board certification process and related professional learning for 200 Arizona teachers.
Donnie Dicus, professional learning director at the Arizona K12 Center, said because of the additional funds, about 400 teachers applied for certification, about double the normal amount.
The center usually has about 150-200 new candidates each year, he said.
“The publicity around the governor’s funding caused quite a bit of attention and interest this year,” Mr. Dicus said.
Only 3% of teachers nationwide achieve this certification, but research in a number of states throughout the country have shown that students of National Board Certified Teachers have improved outcomes.
For example, a 2017 study by Mississippi State University found kindergarten and third-grade students taught by a National Board certified reading teacher perform at a significantly higher level on literacy assessments than peers on average.
Dysart Unified School District has 51 staff members who are National Board certified, a leader among West Valley public school districts.
Incentives for becoming certified varies from district to district.
The Dysart district offers support from staff members and monthly cohort meetings for staff seeking the certification, as well as a stipend equal to 5% of the base salary to teachers who are National Board certified, said spokeswoman Renee Ryon.
“It takes a lot of preparation and requires quite a time commitment, so we also offer substitute coverage for two professional days,” Ms. Ryon said. “We want to ensure all our students are taught by the most qualified staff, so we want to offer incentives so they can achieve and maintain their certification.”
The process to become board certified is very rigorous and can take multiple years to complete.
There are four components teachers are required to complete in order to achieve National Board certification. Three components focus on their work in the classroom, in which candidates provide data, student work samples, videos, and written commentary to provide evidence of their accomplished teaching in practice. The last component is an assessment with multiple choice questions and short essay questions.
All four components can be completed in one year or over three years. Each component costs $475.
Beth Maloney, a Dysart Unified teacher who was first nationally certified in 2008, said the new funds approved by the state legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey opened the door for teachers who may not be able to afford the application process.
“Teachers have been advocating for this for a long time,” she said.
Funding was made available through the Arizona K12 Center, which coordinates the National Board certification program in this state, supporting candidates throughout the process, and is providing funding for other additional candidates.
To be eligible for funding as approved by the Arizona K12 Center, teachers were required to complete an approved pre-candidacy course, attend the center’s National Board Institute and the National Board Kickoff, participate in monthly support meetings in their district or region, and agree to teach in Arizona for one year after completing the process.
The funds are a great first step, said Ms. Maloney, who has 25 years of teaching experience.
“It is very positive news,” she said. “It could really improve the teacher attrition rate.”
A number of benefits come with certification — some districts offer compensation, whether it is a monitory stipend or a percentage of the educators annual salary, or some other method, and universities often offer graduate credit to teachers pursuing certification.
Board certification can open doors to leadership roles that allows educators to advance their careers while staying in the classroom — mentoring, leading professional development efforts, and advocating for policy changes.
Jan Ogino, a NBCT at Heritage Elementary School in the Peoria Unified School District, said becoming nationally certified was the best thing she’s ever done because it is the only professional development certification that forces educators to think about everything they are doing in a way that affects student learning.
“In other professional developments you might get ideas, but not implement them,” she said. “But with national certification, you are constantly being coached, you are thinking about your process in a broad way, in a way that affects the entire class and individuals, and not in a scripted way. It is very organic, which is not typically what teachers do, especially in large districts.”
While Arizona tends to rank at the bottom in the country for education, the state surprisingly ranks closer to the top when it comes to national statistics about NBCTs.
Arizona is 18th in the country for the total number of NBCTs, 9th for new NBCTs, and 14th for NBCTs who renew their certificate, according to Arizona Education News Service.
NBCTs tend to be very reflective about their teaching.
Ms. Ogino said NBCTs are members of learning communities, very collaborative and understand they don’t live in a vacuum.
They are also committed to their students and their learning, she said.
“When I hear and see myself make a mistake, I can pivot so I’m not harming my students because I know when I’ve screwed up, and I fix it,” she said. “It’s not just about money in the classroom, but about building a better workforce and teacher efficacy. The person in the classroom and the quality in the room matters.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.