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GSE Prep Nearly Doubles Teacher Certification

By Elena Barbre

Teachers who took the Graduate School of Education (GSE) courses to prepare for certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) the only national teaching certification had a 92 percent pass rate this year, compared with a 52 percent average pass rate nationwide.

National board certification, a voluntary process established by the NBPTS, is a rigorous, yearlong, performance-based assessment for kindergarten through grade 12 teachers, says education professor Joan Isenberg, director of GSE's Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning Program.

Isenberg, along with Marlene Henriques and Faye Wagoner, adjunct professors who are board-certified teachers in the Fairfax County Public Schools, developed the two-semester graduate-level course that takes candidates through the process step by step. The course's 92 percent pass rate in each of the two years it has been taught is an accomplishment almost unheard of in the profession.

"The key to the course's success is that it is taught by board-certified teachers, who have been through the process and know where the pitfalls lie," says Henriques, who teaches at Kings Park Elementary School.

The collegiality, networking opportunities, and sharing of ideas that result from a cohort of professionals facing certification together is also key. "Our course enables the candidates to meet other colleagues in their same certification area and to share ideas outside the classroom," says Henriques. "It also triggers new ideas and helps them see things from others' perspectives."

People around the country are starting to look to George Mason's program as a model for teacher preparation for board certification, says Isenberg. "This year, we've tripled the number of people we're supporting with our preparation courses."

"George Mason's record is the envy of the field," says Gary Galluzzo, former dean of GSE and now executive vice president for NBPTS. "I know of no group that has achieved the same level of success. It appears that George Mason has figured out the proper way to help teachers think like national board-certified teachers."


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