The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has established five broad paths for teachers of students with disabilities. Teachers may select the "best fit" within these paths to undertake NBPTS' voluntary assessment as Exceptional Needs/Specialists:
* Early Childhood (birth to 8 years)
* Mild and Moderate Disabilities (5 to 21 + years)
* Severe and Multiple Disabilities (5 to 21 + years)
* Visually Impaired (birth to 21 + years).
* Deaf/Hard of Hearing (birth to 21 + years).
Special education teachers (PreK to 12 + ) may now be recognized by their schools, communities, state, and nation as accomplished teachers.
A New Focus on Exceptional Needs" NBPTS certification became available for special educators in the academic year 1999-2000; the process is new (NBPTS, 1999b, p. 6). McKinley, Welch, and Zambone (1999) were featured at the Sixth Annual National Board Academy held in Las Vegas. Their presentation, Breaking New Ground for NBPTS: New Certificates, provided an indepth view of the Exceptional Needs certificate. This presentation focused on certification for "Exceptional Needs/ Specialists." The presenters described the vision of a professional continuum for special educators outlined by the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) (NCTAF, 1996). The authors established a clear continuum for these teachers: from Teacher Education Accreditation (through the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, NCATE) to Initial Licensing (through Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support-http://www.ccso.org/intasc/ html [INTASC]) to Advanced Certification (through NBPTS). This presentation focused on relationships among The Council for Exceptional Children's (CEC's) Standards and Certification: A Code of Ethics and Standards for Professional Practice for Educators of Persons with Exceptionalities (The Council for Exceptional Children, 1998), international standards for entry into professional practice, and guidelines for special educational professional programs in colleges and universities and accrediting agencies (NCATE.)
Teachers are central to all aspects of the National Board's efforts. The Exceptional Needs Standards Committee reflects this policy. The majority of its members are practicing teachers representing the breadth of the field, diversity in settings, and a wide variety of contexts. Teacher educators and disability stakeholders form the remainder of the committee's membership. The Exceptional Needs Standards complement the standards established by CEC. Leaders and members of CEC have been consulted in developing this new national certification. Bob Garcia, member of the Exceptional Needs Standards Committee, was quoted in CEC Today: "For the National Board to recognize and elevate the teaching profession is important, as is the effort to recognize exemplary teachers and set standards for the profession" ("Special Education Teachers Now Eligible for National Certification," 1999, p. 1). The same article (p. 5) also indicated that Rosalie Dilbert, Matty Rodiguez-Walling, and Ann Welch, past Clarissa Hug Teachers of the Year, were instrumental in developing the Exceptional Needs Standards for the NBPTS.
Exceptional Needs Certification A review of the NBPTS certification areas indicates that PreK-12 special educators have five paths to consider for certification. The board has developed rigorous national standards of learning and teaching assessment in several areas. Currently certification is available in 16 areas-as generalists or specialists, from early childhood education through young adulthood (see box, "Framework of National Board Certificates").
The Exceptional Needs/Specialist standards and certification were designed for teachers of students with disabilities. Although NBPTS currently does not have a special certification for teachers of talented and gifted (TAG) children, the National Board encourages TAG teachers to choose an existing area of certification that best fits their practice. …