Friday, April 9, 2010

Study: National certification has measurable benefits

A new study by the State Department of Education shows that teachers who earn national certification produce students with measurably higher achievement, but it is not clear that the certification can be credited with the results.

Researcher Dr. George Noell released the results of his study at Thursday’s meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission for Educational Excellence. The study was requested after State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek told a Senate committee that certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards does not necessarily enhance classroom teaching.

Pastorek’s statement was largely seen as cover for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to halt state funding of a $5,000 annual stipend for teachers who earn national certification. The superintendent later apologized for his comments.

Dr. Noell said that his study is the largest ever done on the effectiveness of nationally certified teachers, and that it confirmed other studies that “suggest there are advantages” to the certification. The study was limited to measuring improved outcomes on standardized tests, and included test data for about 250,000 Louisiana students over a three-year period. There are more than 1,500 nationally certified teachers in the state.

The researcher cautioned commission members about limitations of his study. “We know how much more effective (nationally certified teachers) are,” he said. “We don’t know if it is because of national board certification.”

The positive results could also be explained because those teachers are more motivated than others, he said. The study did not include a measure of test results before and after teachers earned national certification.

Dr. Noell said the survey results will probably not be very helpful in the debate over payment of the stipend to nationally certified teachers. “It is complicated,” he said, “because we made a promise and passed a law.”

The underlying issue is the state of the economy, according to Dr. Noell. “If it weren’t for the current budget crisis,” he said, “I wouldn’t have been asked to do this work.”

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