Taking teaching to a higher level

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Baas and Easton meet nation’s highest teaching standards

By Carol A. Clark

Two teachers from Los Alamos High School are among an elite group that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan referred to as “extraordinary.” English teacher Emily Baas and social studies teacher Brian Easton have become National Board Certified Teachers.

Teachers and school counselors who have achieved National Board Certification this year have “demonstrated a commitment of taking their teaching practice to an entirely different level,” Duncan said, calling them “amazing leaders.”

National Board Certification is achieved through a performance-based assessment that typically takes one to three years to complete.

“The process itself was worthwhile in helping me reflect upon my teaching,” Baas said during an interview Friday.

Easton agreed, describing the program as one of the toughest challenges of any sort of teacher training they’ve undertaken.

“It really took a lot of time but it was definitely well worth it,” he said.

Easton and Baas expressed relief that they got it right the first time and didn’t have to redo any part of the rigorous program.

“I don’t think either of us could have attained certification without the support of our students and Principal Grace Brown,” Easton said.

Brown said, “Emily and Brian are two really outstanding teachers who are very deserving of recognition for this important achievement. Only about one-third of high school teachers who apply ever make it all the way through this program. We are so proud of them and what they’ve accomplished and they did it on their very first try.”

Last year, the National Research Council of the National Academies found that students taught by National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) make higher gains on achievement tests than students taught by teachers who have not applied or did not achieve certification. The study affirmed the “evidence is clear that National Board Certification distinguishes more effective teachers from less effective teachers with respect to student achievement.”

The congressionally mandated report also found that National Board Certification has a positive impact on teacher retention and professional development.

“Just as doctors and accountants gain professional certification beyond licensure by demonstrating their expertise, National Board Certified Teachers have met rigorous standards and are among the nation’s best,” said Joseph A. Aguerrebere, NBPTS president and chief executive officer. “National Board Certification is a growing education reform movement that is reshaping American education. We are committed to providing school districts like Los Alamos Public Schools with high-quality teachers who have a deep knowledge of content and teaching practices to support diverse learners. I am proud that Emily Baas and Brian Easton are among the 82,000 teachers throughout the country who have achieved National Board Certification. These outstanding educators are making a positive difference in the lives of students.”

Statistics show National Board Certified Teachers consistently receive top teaching honors while representing about two percent of the nation’s teaching population:

•Four of the last nine National Teacher of the Year recipients are NBCTs;

•More than a quarter of the 2009 State Teachers of the Year are NBCTs; and

•More than one-third of the recipients of the 2008 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching are NBCTs.

NBPTS has developed its rigorous standards and corresponding assessments for teachers for more than 20 years. The National Board is currently developing a program that will create standards and an assessment process for principals and also lay the groundwork for new certifications for assistant principals and teacher leaders. This initiative is expected to launch in 2011.

For information about NBPTS and National Board Certification, access www.nbpts.org.