A Preliminary Investigation of Why Few Special Educators Are Nationally Board Certified

May. 21, 2010

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 33 no. 2, p. 155-168. (May 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In 2006, special education teachers made up 12% of the educational workforce but only 7% of National Board Certified (NBC) teachers. In contrast, general education teachers made up 88% of the educational workforce and 93% of National Board Certified teachers.

This investigation focused on the Portfolio section of the National Board Certification process.
The purpose of this investigation was to investigate whether specific questions posed in the Portfolio section of the National Board Certification (NBC) process for special education teachers were difficult for a sample of candidates to understand and whether this difficulty resulted in receiving satisfactory evaluations.
Additionally, a second purpose of this investigation was to survey special education teachers about the perceived benefits to their students and their careers of successful certification.


A convenient sample was used in this investigation. Invitations to participate in the study were sent out by email to sample of candidates from across two target states. The sample included teachers from Wyoming, a state that has recently begun to focus on the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards process, and teachers from North Carolina, one of the first states to promote the process.

The data suggested that the wording of three of the questions in the first entry of the portfolio was unclear to the candidates and was responsible in part for their unsatisfactory performance.
This could be a contributing factor regarding why there are fewer special educators attaining NBC status compared to their general education peers.

Based on the results presented herein, further research is recommended to determine if significant numbers of teachers across the country find the questions difficult to answer.

Implications for Teacher Education

In conclusion, it is important for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to have the most valid assessments possible, so that special education teachers pursuing National Board Certification will be assured that their qualifications have been assessed fairly. It is important that as many special education teachers as possible experience the benefits of National Board Certification.

Updated: Oct. 29, 2010