November 30, 2001

Chicago educators nationally certified as ‘master teachers’

CHICAGO—Fifty-two Chicago Public School teachers earned the highest possible credential in Illinois from the national professional organization that sets the bar for teacher standards and quality today.

Only 20 Chicago educators previously held the credential.

The teachers will also earn a one-time $8,500 bonus from the Illinois State Board of Education, CPS, and The Chicago Public Education Fund, a venture capital fund backed by Chicago business leaders. The Fund leads investment in programs that guide teachers through the master teacher process.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certifies teachers who volunteer to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through an extensive yearlong series of performance-based assessments that include teaching portfolios, student work samples, videotapes and rigorous analyses of their own classroom teaching and student learning. Candidates for National Board Certification also complete a series of written exercises that probe the depth of their subject matter knowledge, as well as their understanding of how to teach those subjects to their students.

The unique process assesses not just teacher knowledge, but also the actual use of skills and professional judgment in the classroom.

“It’s exhaustive and it’s thorough, but these teachers come out of the process with better skills, and we think that will translate to better teaching and higher student achievement,” said Sonya Choe Miller, acting president of The Chicago Public Education Fund. Over the last 18 months, The Fund invested nearly $800,000 in programs and resource centers designed to increase the number of master teachers in Chicago Public Schools.

“Teachers who take the initiative to voluntarily enhance their personal educational portfolios are the ones I want on my team,” said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. “They are the teachers who have the educational knowledge and motivation to continuously improve student performance.”

Teachers who undergo the process say it is the most powerful professional development experience they have ever encountered.

“It changed me as a teacher,” said Beverly Love, a teacher at Nash School who earned certification today. “It makes you step back and look at what you do, and ask yourself ‘what is it that I can do in a new way, instead of getting into a routine?’”

Candidates spend hours analyzing videotapes of their classroom performance, followed by in-depth written evaluations.

“At the end of the day, every teacher reflects on their practice,” said Jennifer Morrison, an NBC teacher at Jones Magnet School, “but to look at yourself on videotape, critique your content and instructional performance, and document corrections and strong points—that’s a much more active endeavor.”

That endeavor forces teachers to serve their kids better, say candidates. “The entire process draws you into deciding and defining what you do for a kid and why. For me, I wasn’t as good as I should be at embracing parents as partners. But that has changed, and the positive impact is exponential,” said Clissold teacher Connie McIntosh.

Teachers take part in training at resource centers run by the Chicago Teachers Union Quest Center and Illinois State University. The time-intensive program—more than 400 hours—discourages many already over-worked educators from attempting certification. To counter this, The Fund developed the innovative “give-back” incentive, which rewards individual certified teachers with $3,000 and school cohorts—defined as 6 or more master teachers in one school—with as much as $30,000.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but this is a great start,” Miller said. The Fund saw a 14% increase in applications this year, after a tenfold increase in 2000. Continued investment from The Fund should build capacity for more than 1,000 certified teachers by 2005.

Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins is optimistic. “We have set a standard of excellence,” she said. “We must continue to be cutting-edge in our instruction and professional development, if we desire to graduate well-rounded students who go on to live successful and meaningful lives.”.

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As a venture capital fund for public education, The Chicago Public Education Fund is an unprecedented catalyst for improving school leadership and student achievement system wide. Launched by a group of corporate and civic leaders, The Fund brings private sector dollars and expertise to high-impact programs aligned with Chicago Public Schools priorities. Find out more at