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Accomplished Teachers

Supporting High-Performing Educators
Our experts share their vision for accomplished teachers, and the supports and actions required for them to succeed and grow throughout their careers.

How we define 'Accomplished Teachers'

Demonstrate outstanding performance, as defined by the profession
Show an ongoing commitment to continuous learning and improvement in practice
May have completed a formal assessment process, e.g., National Board Certification


The vast majority of teachers are either well along the path in pursuit of the knowledge and skills of accomplished practice or are already performing at an “accomplished” level. While some teachers may choose not to engage in the National Board Certification process, all teachers actively pursue the five propositions the assessment represents:

  • Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and their learning.

  • Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.

  • Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.

  • Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

  • Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.

The NBC process serves as a guide for professional growth throughout the teacher’s career.

Standards for accomplished practice across 16 different subject areas and at four student developmental levels address almost every teaching assignment within schools. Successfully achieving NBC status provides evidence of excellence for a school as well as for the individual.

The “accomplished teacher” label doesn’t mean a teacher has finished her/his professional growth journey. If anything, it may best be attached to those individuals with the greatest ongoing commitment to learning and improvement in practice. These teachers lead by example with their devotion to better serving the needs of their PreK-12 students through their own growth and support of colleagues. Accomplished teachers engage in career-long efforts to build exemplary connections with the community, both to strengthen support for the school and to develop greater authentic learning opportunities for students.

Teachers in the professional and accomplished career phases engage in broad professional networks that transcend departments and grade levels and move beyond schools and districts to include regional, national, and virtual communities. They leverage extended networks to enhance their opportunities for learning and their influence in shaping PreK-12 education and the teaching profession.

Accomplished teachers also are engaged in community networks that deepen their understanding of the cultural groups served by their school and that give them opportunities to advocate for the needs of their students.

Accomplished teachers have even greater latitude to experiment with teaching and learning strategies, conducting action research and coordinating colleagues in such research, as well.

Monetary resources and release time, while available to teachers at all phases of their career, are particularly available to accomplished teachers. They use the additional resources to facilitate their learning and research with the understanding that their wisdom will be invested not only in their individual classrooms, but in the school, district, and extended networks of teachers with whom they connect.

Accomplished teachers also form the backbone of an infrastructure to support others to pursue accomplished status.

Districts, policy makers, and teacher unions collaborate to provide coaching, facilitate support groups, and offer financial assistance for fees associated with NBC.

While demonstrating “accomplished practice” through an assessment such as NBC may be a criterion for salary determination, such certification should be pursued for the value of the process on improved professional practice and its impact on strengthening the teaching profession. Achieving this altruistic goal rests on the assumption that all teachers receive compensation at a competitive professional level.

As teachers change subject, grade, and class assignments, they may not always demonstrate accomplished practice. But their understanding of what accomplished practice is makes it possible for them to develop the skills and knowledge for practice in their new roles.

Teacher evaluation of accomplished teachers serves as an example of how assessment of practice can be teacher led, growth focused, and can contribute to a positive culture of professional learning.

To achieve our vision for student learning and opportunity, a significant cadre of teachers, particularly professional and accomplished teachers, must fulfill needed leadership duties. (See the Teacher Leader career phase for details.)

The Current Landscape

Since little is done systemically to recognize or even to encourage pursuing accomplished practice within schools, much of the description of ‘landscape’ for the ‘professional’ career phase also accurately describes the ‘landscape’ for the accomplished professional. Very little is done systemically within the profession to leverage accomplished status or to tap persons who have demonstrated accomplished practice for specific responsibilities.

3% of the overall teaching population has pursued and achieved NBC

Only about 3 percent of the overall teaching population has pursued and achieved NBC. By contrast, over 90 percent of physicians hold one or more Board certifications.

Some systems may recognize teachers achieving NBC status in ways that tend to isolate them from colleagues. Some experience negative attitudes among their peers for being singled out.

Transforming the Landscape

Passion for Learning

Accomplished teachers blaze a trail in tackling the most challenging aspects of improving learning. For instance, they may lead efforts to incorporate culturally responsive teaching into everyday practice. They identify and develop new opportunities for connections between their students’ cultures, their communities, and student learning goals. They are increasingly able to facilitate student choice in pursuing individual learning goals.

Assessment for Excellence

Accomplished teachers provide the credential of their expertise as schools move from testing, earning points, and grades as motivation to strategies focused on learning as the ultimate outcome. They ensure that student reflection on learning from projects is incorporated into their overall design of teaching, learning, and assessment. Pursuit of NBC status demonstrates the crucial role of performance assessment in measuring complex knowledge and skills. Accomplished teachers model the development and use of classroom assessments that are free from bias and encourage student choice in demonstrating mastery.

Accomplished teachers blaze a trail in tackling the most challenging aspects of improving learning.

Culture of Collaboration

Accomplished teachers collaborate with peers to create professional learning plans that acknowledge the larger school’s need for growth and supporting improved learning for every student.

No single teacher is solely responsible for the learning of any group of students, as there is constant collaboration, co-teaching, modeling, coaching, etc., that links accomplished teachers to classrooms throughout the school. Collaboration by accomplished educators regularly extends beyond school walls to include broader professional communities of educators and the cultural groups and communities served by their school.

Authentic Autonomy

Accomplished teachers develop professional learning plans based on personal strengths and needs while also aligning significant parts (or all) of their plan with the collaboratively determined professional growth goals for their department, grade, or school.

Worth of Persons and Communities

Accomplished teachers model their commitment to their students and their profession by continuing to seek understanding of how race, culture, and socioeconomic factors impact their own perceptions and decision making. They continue to expand their repertoire of culturally responsive teaching techniques and their use of positive classroom management strategies.

A middle-aged female teacher stands in front of a chalkboard with her arms folded
Teacher Leaders

Encouraging Leadership at all Career Phases

Professional Teachers

Fostering Mid-Career Educators’ Continued Growth and Pursuit of Excellence

An male Asian teacher writes on a whiteboard
National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.