Advanced Certification for Educational Leaders
In a prior life, I was a high school assistant principal and then principal for seven years. My professional goals as a school administrator were identified using a time-honored evaluation process of mutually establishing objectives with my boss. At the time, I felt everything was as it should be, and that I did a good job as a school leader.
Reflecting back, I now know that something was missing. I needed larger goals to guide my practice; goals that extended beyond the confines of our high school and school district. And I needed greater clarity on my primary objective, i.e., to do everything in my power to help every student learn to his or her full potential.
Fast forward 25 years. I serve on the steering committee for the Advanced Certification for Educational Leaders, a new program being developed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Steering committee members met earlier this month to review progress in identifying the nine core propositions and the standards that will guide development of the certification program.
Advanced certification will be offered to school principals similar to how national board certification is available to classroom teachers. It’s not an entry level certificate so it will not replace initial administrator credentialing. It will require submission of a comprehensive portfolio demonstrating skills, applications and dispositions—a portfolio that will be scored by highly skilled school administrators using advanced techniques. It’s anticipated that advanced certification will be available to principals in 2012.
I concluded three things in attending these meetings:
- School principals are essential in our efforts to dramatically improve education in the U.S. given the dramatic changes forced upon our society by new technologies.
- School principals need a program like advanced certification to identify compelling goals to guide their practice.
- NBPTS is the perfect agency to create this advanced certification program.
The three school administrator associations, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), fully support this initiative.
NBPTS staff led steering committee members in several excellent discussions. One of the most compelling discussions clarified that committee members were unanimous that advanced certification must only be awarded to principals who can demonstrate, via their submitted portfolio, increased levels of student achievement.
That’s good news. However, the challenge will be developing the appropriate student assessment systems that will capture important measures of improved student achievement. Currently, measuring student learning using standardized tests in reading and math does not meet that criterion. And principals will want a rational approach to documenting increased student achievement before they will submit for advanced certification.
Improved student assessments are central to many initiatives including the reauthorized federal legislation, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA); Race to the Top (RTTT) funding; and the federally supported efforts to turn around schools. Advanced Certification for Educational Leaders is one more reason to replace our antiquated student assessment and school accountability system with a 21st-century approach that is rational and that will measure what students need to learn.