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Such initiatives have always faced strong resistance from teacher unions.

Further complicating matters, the two national unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), were very much at odds at the time.

Or is it, as some critics have argued, a costly and largely misguided and ineffective effort to improve teaching and student achievement?

The answers to these important policy questions are strongly disputed by both supporters and critics of the NBPTS.

Moreover, before the development of the NBPTS, there had been no demand from policymakers or the public for the creation of a cadre of master teachers.

And is it raising the standards and performance of the teaching profession and the achievement of students?

Only about 50 percent of candidates are successful in their first effort at certification; this has helped the credibility of the venture with business and political leaders by demonstrating that not everyone meets the board’s high standards.

At the same time, the cost-effectiveness of the board’s approach, its focus on what teachers should know and be able to do rather than on the student outcomes or achievement associated with teaching, and its methods of assessing teacher quality, are features that have attracted strong criticism–issues we will return to later in this article.

Considering the opportunity costs of the millions of dollars spent on the NBPTS and with research documenting that the quality of teaching is the most important within-school variable determining student success, the stakes involved could hardly be higher.

In this article, we consider these questions in light of published material and research on the NBPTS and telephone interviews we conducted with prominent stakeholders, leaders of the NBPTS, and policy analysts and researchers holding varied views, pro and con, on the topic.

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