After hearing Governor Pat Quinn’s new internet video strategy criticizing opponent Bill Brady as anti-union, I had to think about a politician’s union views impact on my career, and more importantly, my students’ futures. After achieving National Board Certification (NBC) through the CTU’s Nurturing Teacher Leadership (NTL) program, I can attest to one union’s benefits for members and the community those members serve.
While no statistics are readily available to demonstrate whether a masters, multiple masters, or doctorate degrees earned by educators impact student performance, there are statistics and research to support NBCT’s impact on student learning and achievement, especially in high-need schools. With Race to the Top highlighting education reform, investing in NBC may serve as a step in curing our diseased educational system.
National Board of Professional Teaching Standards
Research conducted on the effects of NBCT effectiveness in the classroom demonstrates improvement in student achievement, positive impact in high-need schools, and higher rates of teacher retention. Florida found 90% of NBCT’s more likely to remain in teaching compared to 60% of non-NBCT’s, while similar results may be found in surveys conducted in Ohio and South Carolina. Also worthy of mention, 80% of Race to the Top winners included NBPTS in proposals. (NBPTS, 2010)
Through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards’ (NBPTS) Five Core Propositions teachers are required to analyze and reflect upon individual practices, which aids in articulating and relating learning goals and objectives to students. The certification process requires a 200-400 hour time commitment, a portfolio requiring four entries and a timed exam assessing subject-matter knowledge and application in the classroom.
As an educator, I find my life experience contributes greatly to teaching my students. Pursuing NBC was an easy decision; achieving NBC was not easy for me. While suffering from ADHD positively affects my teaching in many ways, access to understanding the how and why I made curriculum and assessment decisions remained a struggle.
While achieving NBC may be personally and financially fulfilling, the demands of the NBC process do not allow those solely intent on these gains to succeed. With out dedication to methodology and students, teachers who attempt NBC are not likely to succeed. Nationwide, first-time achievement rates are around 40%.
Chicago Teachers Union Nurturing Teacher Leadership Program
In Chicago, public school teachers find support for achieving NBC through the CTU-sponsored NTL program. One of the most successful programs in the nation for supporting NBCT candidates, the program boasts a 94% success rate. (NTL, 2010)
Would I have achieved without my union’s dedication to securing funds for NTL’s professional development, one-on-one mentoring, or educational and technological resources? I’m sure there are others who would agree: probably not on the first attempt.
Through sharing and analyzing instructional practices and questioning techniques used by mentors, the NTL process, and my desire to become a better educator, NTL helped me access answers I didn’t know I had. Learning to question my own practice, exploring educational theory and philosophy, problem-solving with colleagues, and adopting the NBPTS Five Core Propositions, NTL provided tools necessary for success in directly impacting my students’ learning.
Teachers Unions and Politics
Unions aren’t in place to make politicians’ lives more difficult. While fighting for the rights of members, teacher unions are still subject to local and state legislation. In Illinois, unions fight contract issues item-by-item, but the state holds power over currently controversial issues, such as performance assessment and tenure. (Cohen & Walsh, 2010) This is one reason unions use funds to support political campaigns, and inform members of supported candidates. However, individual members make their own decisions on Election Day. According to Mike Antonucci, the director of the Educational Intelligence Agency, 50% of teachers in unions favor more conservative political views, while unions are believed to favor democratic candidates. (2010)
While my experience is limited to one field and one particular union, my argument is not sufficient to support whether unionization is a “good” or “bad” idea. However, my experience with NTL’s process did benefit my students, which they proved to me when honored as a finalist for a student-nominated Golden Apple Award in 2007.
Antonucci, Mike. (2010, Fall). The Long Reach of Teachers Unions, Education Next: A Journal of Opinion and Research, p. 30
Cohen, Emily & Kate Walsh. (2010, Fall). Invisible Ink in Teacher Contracts, Education Next: A Journal of Opinion and Research, p. 19
National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. (2010). Retrieved Monday, September 20, 2010, from http://www.nbpts.org/resources/research
Nurturing Teacher Leadership. (2010). Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.ctunet.com/questcenter_ntl.html