Program for educators supported by business hits landmark

October 12, 2011

On a Friday morning in September, 34 teachers gathered in Emporia to start a journey together. While they all returned to their homes and their schools, they will be continuing on their trek for the next several months. The destination: National Board Certification. How to get there: intense reflection on how and why they teach the way they do.

“Each year we have anywhere from 30 to 50 teachers who come to the orientation session to find out about the process and determine if and how they can do what must be done as a national board candidate,” said Dr. Roger Caswell, director of the Great Plains Center for National Teacher Certification based at Emporia State University’s Jones Institute for Educational Excellence.

Photo of check presentation (Left – Cynthia Wright, Roger Caswell, Pete Euler, Phil Bennett)

“Through written and video documentation, the candidates demonstrate what they do in the classroom, how they instruct students. But the teachers also have to show how they interact with parents, their professional and area communities, and how they plan to continue to grow as professionals,” Caswell said. “Reflection is key in this process.”

This year the Great Plains Center passed a historic landmark: more than $100,000 has been given by the State Farm Insurance Companies over the past 13 consecutive years to help support the program.

“State Farm is proud to join NBPTS to recognize and support teachers who are dedicated and committed to education excellence,” said Pete Euler, a State Farm agent in Emporia. “I am proud to have been given the opportunity to present the grant on behalf of the Great Plains Center and have enjoyed the partnership.”

Euler played a major role in advancing the original ESU proposal to the State Farm Foundation Kansas-Oklahoma regional office in Tulsa. Euler has continued to support the center’s proposals to the State Farm Foundation.

“With the increased interest in national board certification, the supplemental financial support from State Farm is much appreciated and serves as an excellent example of how the partnership between private and public funding sources can help assure our ability to meet the goal of equitable access to the academy for all teachers in the state,” said Dr. Phil Bennett, Dean of The Teachers College.

Over the years, the program has grown from offering support for first-time candidates, to now providing:
- pre-candidate support – for those who want to see the map, as it were, before they fully embark on the national board journey (this includes the Take One! Program)
- advanced candidate support – for candidates who may not have reached the destination of completing or becoming a national board certified teacher (teachers have three years to earn successful scores)
- renewal candidate support – national board certification lasts for 10 years, if a teacher wants to remain an NBCT, s/he has to once again submit materials and documentation about their work as a professional educator
- expanding NBCT leadership in Kansas – supporting educators to further their efforts as advocates for their profession

Another program to be added in the future is National Board Certification for Principals which will define and validate the requirements that identify an accomplished, effective and results-oriented principal.

This year approximately 40 teachers from across Kansas and two educators from Arkansas attended the orientation and will receive assistance from the Great Plains Center as they work towards their certification.

"We’ve had people from out of state before seek our assistance,” said Caswell. “Having a place to meet, review, and collaborate with other teachers as they all work towards certification is a hit-or-miss thing across the nation. Without the sustained support of State Farm, especially during these economic times, it would be difficult to provide teachers with the support we give them as they go through this process.”

Candidates will meet for weekend workshops throughout the next few months. By March 31, they will have sent their written and video documentation to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards who will have veteran teachers evaluate candidates’ materials. In June, candidates take a written assessment. Then the long wait begins.

“Candidates who completed the process earlier this year won’t find out until November if they are national board certified teachers,” Caswell said. “The same goes for renewing NBCTs. They submit their materials in the spring, and they find out in late October if they successfully renewed.”

While the Great Plains Center’s initial certification rate is usually 80% – 40 points higher than the national rate – it is an anxious time for the candidates as well as Caswell. “We – me and the NBCTs who review candidates’ porfolios – offer the best advice we have based on our experience, but we do not have a secret book of answers to gauge what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’” Caswell said. “Portfolios are reviewed by teachers selected by the NBPTS, they have rubrics and measures, but it is a subjective process in some respects.”
The ones who succeed at reaching their destination will join the other 342 Kansas teachers who are NBCTs: teachers who meet high standards through study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.

The ones who do not succeed have two more years to try to reach their journey’s end.

For more information about the NBPTS program at ESU, visit the Jones Institute web site at For more information about the State Farm gift, contact Tamara O’Connor, with the Lee’s Summit, MO office at 816-246-8126.



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