Question 3: To what extent do teachers participate in the program?

Figure 2-1 shows how this question fits into our overall framework. To investigate this question, the committee identified the following subsidiary questions:

  1. How many teachers apply each year for board certification? Have there been changes in application rates over time? How do application rates compare across states and districts? What are the characteristics of teachers who apply compared with those who do not? What are the characteristics of teachers who successfully earn board certification compared with those who do not?

  2. Why do teachers choose to participate or not? What do various agencies (the board, states, school districts, teachers unions, etc.) do to encourage participation? How do these actions influence teachers’ attitudes toward certification and participation in the process?

To address these questions, we relied on information from two sources. The first source was the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) itself. National board staff members provided written responses to questions we submitted, as well as other information about participation rates, including an electronic version of their longitudinal candidate database for our own analyses. The second source was a research base consisting of seven studies that focused on teachers’ motivations for pursuing board certification. In the sections that follow, we first examine participation patterns, comparing participation rates over time and by state and school district, as well as the characteristics of teachers who pursue board certification. We then turn to a discussion of the reasons teachers decide to obtain board certification. Additional details about the specific sources we used are provided in the relevant sections.

In the sections that follow, we use the terms “applicants,” “candidates,” and “participants” interchangeably, to refer to all teachers who apply for board certification by completing the entire assessment process, regardless of whether they pass the assessment or not. The term “achievers” denotes teachers who earn board certification by completing the assessment process and receive a passing score.


The national board provided the committee with information that we used to determine the levels of participation in the program and the characteristics of participants. The electronic data set supplied by the national

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