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By Teachers, For Teachers.

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards was founded in 1987 to advance the quality of teaching and learning by:

  • maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do;

  • providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards; and

  • advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.

This second edition of What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do articulates the National Board’s Five Core Propositions for teaching. Similar to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath, the Five Core Propositions are held in common by teachers of all grade levels and disciplines and underscore the accomplished teacher’s commitment to advancing student learning and achievement. Together, the propositions form the basis of all National Board Standards, which describe how teachers enact the Propositions in particular content areas and with students of particular developmental levels, and serve as the foundation for Board certification. National Board Certification—created by teachers, for teachers—is the profession’s mark of accomplished teaching.


The explication of the Five Core Propositions in this edition of What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do was updated in 2015 to reflect advances in the field in research, professional language, and practice. Remarkably, the Propositions themselves have stood the test of time. The stability of the Five Core Propositions is an indication of the teaching profession’s ability to create and maintain a body of knowledge that guides practice. Stylistic revisions were made to the explication of each proposition to ensure the text resonates with modern ears, and updates to the content include a stronger emphasis on the roles that technology and language play in students’ lives.

When What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do was first written in 1989, there were no National Board Certified Teachers. The Five Core Propositions established in that document anchored the development of peer-reviewed standards and assessments for Board certification in 25 certificate areas. As a testament to the strength of that visionary document, we can now say that over 700 Board-certified teachers contributed to the updated explication of the Five Core Propositions. They participated in the comment period, providing practice-based evaluations of the extent to which the descriptions of the Propositions have stood the test of time; they served on National Board’s staff, Certification Council, and Board of Directors, shepherding the revision process; and they made up the entirety of the committee that oversaw the revisions, basing their decisions on the comment period findings, research, and their considerable experience with students.

A distinguishing hallmark of a profession is that those who are in it determine what its members must know and do. For this reason, how these revisions took place is as important as the revisions themselves. As is the case with all National Board Standards, the updated Five Core Propositions were written by teachers, for teachers. The Five Core Propositions—in content and in authorship— are a statement of what our profession stands for.

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