William A. Estrada
Director of Federal Relations
HSLDA

 
 
9/7/2007

No Child Left Behind
Why Congress Should Reauthorize Section 9530 to Prohibit Nationalized Teacher Certification or Testing

Introduction

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) came before Congress for reauthorization in early 2001 in the form of H.R. 1, The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Congress inserted section 9530 in NCLB to forbid federal funds from being used for any program of national teacher testing or national teacher certification.

Section 9530 reads in its entirety:

‘‘SEC. 9530. LIMITATIONS ON NATIONAL TESTING OR CERTIFICATION FOR TEACHERS.

‘‘(a) MANDATORY NATIONAL TESTING OR CERTIFICATION OF TEACHERS.-Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or any other provision of law, no funds available to the Department or otherwise available under this Act may be used for any purpose relating to a mandatory nationwide test or certification of teachers or education paraprofessionals, including any planning, development, implementation, or administration of such test or certification.

‘‘(b) PROHIBITION ON WITHHOLDING FUNDS.-The Secretary is prohibited from withholding funds from any State educational agency or local educational agency if the State educational agency or local educational agency fails to adopt a specific method of teacher or paraprofessional certification.

We urge Congress to reauthorize this language as it currently appears.

Research indicates that National Board Certified Teachers are not a panacea for student achievement

In 2006, a team of researchers released a study of 5th grade students in three North Carolina school districts, which compared teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) with non-Board certified teachers. The researchers concluded in their Executive Summary, “findings showed no clear pattern of effects on student achievement based on whether the teacher was Board certified.”1 Later in the study, the researchers noted, “Overall, a district’s expectation might be that Board certified teachers demonstrate achievement results that put them in the upper quartiles of all the teachers at that grade level. That is not what we found.”2 Although the researchers admitted that their data was only based on one grade level, it still indicates that national teacher certification is not a panacea to plummeting public school academic success.

A recent front page article in the Education Week magazine asked the question, “as more teachers seek [NBPTS] certification, will its worth slip?”3 This raises a valid question: if the federal government created a nationalized teacher certification and testing program for all teachers, would the states then seek to create their own teacher standards? This could easily defeat the purpose of nationalized teacher certification and testing. It would result in a giant waste of education spending, for no foreseeable benefit.

Furthermore, there are many exceptional teachers in home schools, religious schools, and private schools, as well as in public schools, who are not nationally certified. The Education Week article continued, “teachers with and without the credential, along with researchers, are certain that the best teachers are not necessarily nationally certified.”4 This fits in with the study of 5th grade students and teachers in North Carolina, as well as with the evidence of home school students. Research shows that home school students perform at the same level, regardless of whether or not one of their parents is a certified teacher. Professor Lawrence M. Rudner’s 1999 study of home schooled students concluded on this issue that “there is no significant difference in the achievement levels of home school students whose parents are certified and those that are not.”5

Nationalized teacher certification and testing could become mandatory, forcing all teachers to submit to curricula and training that they may find offensive, or antithetical to their values. Unelected policy makers, or private boards like NBPTS, would determine what teachers should know and be taught, and could use their power of certification to keep certain teachers from teaching. This would be extremely concerning for home schools, religious schools, and private schools, because nationalized teacher certification and testing could eventually be extended to home schooling parents or teachers in religious and private schools.

Why the federal government should not engage in teacher certification or testing programs

Based upon these studies and many more, the federal government should not spend money that could be better used to educate students on national certification or testing for teachers.

A nationalized program of teacher certification or testing would be extremely expensive, adding to the already strained education budgets at the federal, state, and local levels. This would likely take money away from bona fide education expenditures or even from hiring more teachers to lower class sizes.

Rather, as demonstrated by the success of non-certified home school parents, the best education occurs when children are taught by motivated teachers, along with parental involvement. Home school success demonstrates that this is far more important than a certificate on the teacher’s wall.

Congress should reauthorize section 9530 to protect teachers and students from more layers of bureaucracy that would come along with a nationalized program of teacher testing or certification.

Endnotes

1 Teacher Effectiveness, Student Achievement, & National Board Certified Teachers: A Comparison of National Board Certified Teachers and non-National Board Certified Teachers: Is there a difference in teacher effectiveness and student achievement? Prepared for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, by Wendy McColskey, Ph.D. and James H. Stronge, Ph.D. Co- PIs, Thomas J. Ward, Ph.D., Pamela D. Tucker, Ed.D., Barbara Howard, Ed.D., Karla Lewis, Ph.D., Jennifer L. Hindman, Ph.D., June 2006, at 9. Study available at www.wm.edu/education

2Id., at 77.

3Bess Keller, Education Week, Vol. 26, No. 45, August 15, 2007, p. 1.

4Id., at 16.

5Lawrence M. Rudner, Ph.D., Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998, 1999, table 3.11. Study available at epaa.asu.edu