Building a Culture of Improvement: The Network to Transform Teaching

National Board for Professional Teaching StandardsCurrently in education, especially K-12, there is an emphasis on accountability and a pressure for rapid, large-scale implementation. National debate continues to rage over the use of testing for student and teacher evaluation, and we hunt for elusive silver bullets. Within this context, the Network to Transform Teaching (NT3) was formed with the goal of transforming the teaching profession by developing and strengthening systems to make accomplished teaching the norm, with National Board Certification and board-certified teachers integrated into the fabric of schooling.

The NT3 was created by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and began with four state members (Arizona, Kentucky, New York, and Washington) and two school district members (the Albuquerque Public Schools and the San Francisco Unified School District). The National Board serves as the network’s Hub, providing centralized coordination, support for member engagement in improvement research, and analytic services. The Hub is supported by partnering organizations: the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which provided technical assistance, and the American Institutes for Research, which provided evaluation and formative feedback.

Through NT3, the National Board and its partners seek to systematically build teacher effectiveness across the career continuum to ensure all students receive an excellent education. The Hub envisions a career continuum that is anchored in a series of steps beginning with supports for preparation and induction, leading systematically to accomplished teaching and National Board certification, and ultimately resulting in the spread of the professional expertise of accomplished teachers through leadership roles. The goal of the diverse network, then, is to learn how to adapt and spread the innovative practices to states, districts, and schools across the country.

State and district partners, particularly those with classroom teaching experience, come to this network with a deep belief in reflective teaching, a core competency of Board-certified teachers. These Board-certified teachers closely analyze their teaching, articulate the rationale for their instructional moves, and target opportunities for ongoing improvement. Building from the reflective disposition of accomplished teachers has proven to be a catalyst for learning to apply improvement principles. To explicitly draw out these connections, the Hub has built and tested a training that introduces the Six Core Principles of Improvement in the context of the National Board’s Five Core Propositions that form the foundation for accomplished teaching. This activity, and the discourse around it, is supporting network partners to take on an identity that embodies a commitment to practical improvement, an essential component of building a networked improvement community.


Formation of a network-wide identity and culture that embraces failure required that the Hub lead the way in modeling the relevant aspects of an improvement mindset. To do so, the Hub regularly shares works-in-progress with the network for critical feedback and refinement. Inspired by the Carnegie Foundation, the network embraced the mantra “possibly wrong and definitely incomplete” from the very outset. In particular, the network uses this phrase to describe works-in-progress such as the theory of practice improvement, which is continually evolving based on new learning from both within and outside the network. During the planning phase, the shared aims and theory for the network underwent multiple iterations: the Hub scanned the field and created a “definitely incomplete” version for network members to respond to, feedback was collected and incorporated, and the products were ultimately strengthened. This collaborative, democratic process has served to strengthen the cultural norms of iteration including incomplete and error-full drafts. Network members report that they see the Hub modeling the improvement stance, which better enables them to bring it to life in their own context.

To read details about the Hub and more commentary on the network, see

To read more about the Network to Transform Teaching, see