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The Policy Context

04th May 2011
By monic atsfbd in Accident claims
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The planning and development of the national board occurred at a time when the value of challenging and meaningful standards for students was being recognized as a critical strategy for education reform. The logic behind the national board's strategy was to set high standards for teachers as a means for improving teacher quality and, hence, student learning.

The board was one part of a comprehensive strategy intended to reform the education system and help students meet the demands of an information-based society. By fostering consensus regarding what constitutes highquality teaching and highlighting and rewarding teachers who demonstrate those standards, the board was expected to have a significant impact on the overall caliber of U.S. teachers. By expanding expectations about what constitutes good teaching, the board was expected to bring teaching into the ranks of the true professions, improve its capacity to attract and retain high-quality personnel, all of which would serve to improve student learning.

The policy climate in which this evaluation is now being conducted is different in significant ways. A basic tension is now evident between two different ways of thinking about the question of teacher quality. On one hand is a view of teachers as professional practitioners of a complex task, who should be supported in and rewarded for thinking for themselves, collaborating with colleagues, and taking responsibility for their own growth and development. This is the view that motivated the development of the national board and its standards and has grown to be widely shared in many circles.

On the other hand, an emphasis on standards and accountability has shifted public focus to the outcomes of teaching in which high-quality teaching is defined as that which produces student learning. The accountability movement has placed increased focus on the results from standardized tests as measures of student learning. The kinds of characteristics measured by the NBPTS assessment such as the capacity to understand students' needs, reflect on one's practice, and collaborate with other teachers have not been prominent in current policy approaches. While the board includes accountability for student learning as an important element of its approach, the attributes emphasized in its standards do not fit neatly into the current framing of accountability systems.

In the years since the national board was founded, states have intensified their focus on assessment results for students and measurable criteria for effective teaching, particularly in response to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Increasingly, students' scores on standardized assessment have come to be viewed, especially at policy levels, as the only or best measure of the effectiveness of any educational intervention. However, this yardstick was not viewed in the same way at the time the national board was developed, and the program was not envisioned as a strategy whose primary purpose was to raise test scores. Standardized assessments do not lend themselves easily to the evaluation of the kinds of higher order skills that were at the heart of both A Nation at Risk and A Nation Prepared. The national board's conception of teaching was broad, seeking to develop teachers who, rather than drilling their students until they learned specific bodies of factual knowledge, would use their skills to challenge their students and enable them to achieve high standards considered more broadly.

Moreover, since the national board began its work, questions and debate regarding issues related to its mission about teacher quality and preparation, teacher salaries and incentives, the influence of teachers unions, and the potential value of a range of approaches to reforming public education and improving student achievement, to name a few have continued. Numerous other reforms have been initiated since the board was founded, each of which has had effects on the circumstances the board has hoped to change. The national board continues to conduct its work in a complex environment, a factor we have borne in mind as we conducted our evaluation.

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