American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence
May 11, 2006
Recently, the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) and its counterpart, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), each studied the effectiveness of their respective certifications for teachers. Their reports reveal a striking contrast. The NBPTS results were apparently so dismal that the organization chose not to release the study, and put out only a description of their findings. As an Education Week story explains, NBPTS "found that there was basically no difference in the achievement levels of students whose teachers earned the prestigious NBPTS credential, those who tried but failed to earn it, those who never tried to get the certification, or those who earned it after the student test-score data was collected." If true, NBPTS certification is rendered largely meaningless-a conclusion NBPTS would surely like to avoid. ABCTE, on the other hand, found evidence that its own tests do identify effective teachers. Its study covered a small sample and examined only elementary school teachers (elementary education is just one of eight certifications available from ABCTE), but the results are still statistically significant. Fifty-five teachers in Tennessee took the two ABCTE elementary education certification tests. Because of William Sanders' pioneering value-added analysis work in Tennessee, and because the state keeps extensive databases matching students to teachers, researchers were able match the 55 teachers' ABCTE test scores with the academic progress of those teachers' students. Turns out, the teachers who passed ABCTE's tests had students who demonstrated above-average gains in mathematics. The students of those teachers who failed ABCTE's tests posted below-average gains. There were no statistically significant differences in reading, science, or social studies scores, but the math gains were so overwhelming that they made the overall gains, averaged across the four subjects, significantly positive for those teachers who passed. The report acknowledges the need for further (larger) studies, but rightly labels its own results "promising." ABCTE's short report is available here.