The Enigma of Clock Hours for Teachers in Washington State

Update: NBCT facilitator extraordinaire and giant of the Washington State ed scene @maren_johnson weighed in with some detail and context in the comments. She touched on changes to the recert process and the importance of clock hours for NBCTs. She is always worth a read. 

Original Post: I am entering my tenth year of teaching and throughout (most) of my career I’ve dutifully filled out forms for, paid for and accumulated clock hours (mostly because the people at Evergreen told me that’s what I was supposed to do, back in the aughts).

I have to admit though, up until starting to write this, I didn't really understand how the clock hours system works. I’m not daft; I know that we’re accumulating training hours for our certs, but there’s a math that underlies it all that eludes me and many of my colleagues.

Let me start with the knowns of the system (and a few unknowns)

I know that our state salary schedule is complicated (and overdue for revision by the Legislature).

I know I graduated with an MA+45 (and will probably remain there until I die).

I know that I have to complete 150 clock hours every five years to keep my cert valid.

I know there is some magical formula whereby X number of clock hours (magically) become credits and Y number of credits moves one up the salary schedule [conversely, I have no idea of the values of X and Y (edit: just found the answer here)].

I know that despite dutifully (for the most part) turning in these clock hour forms for nine years, I remain in the same place on the salary schedule (although that doesn’t really matter to me, I just present it for context because I know my situation is not unique).

I know that if you complete you Pro-Teach Portfolio, which I did last year, you are automatically awarded 150 clock hours.

I know that… (no, I learned from Googling it five minutes ago that) people who complete their National Boards are exempted from the entire clock hours process (see image below). 

I promise you many NBCTs in Washington have no idea about this.  

I promise you many NBCTs in Washington have no idea about this.  

If you’re paying attention you might notice an interesting connection between #3 and #6 that I didn't know about until this week:

  • You have to complete 150 clock hours to keep your cert;
  • The mandatory re-cert process grants you 150 clock hours.

So this leads me to my questions one systemic and one personal:

Systemic: Why do we continue to maintain the clock hour system and how does its continuation serve students? They're a hassle for practitioners. I don’t have to tell other Washington teachers about the rules: paying by check or exact change to have our training documented, hand carrying the forms to the district office, making their filing deadlines, lost/misplaced forms, being berated for late submission, being charged silly look-up fees for past trainings, etc.

Don’t get it twisted. I am not anti-PD. I am the opposite. I am a fierce advocate for high quality PD, but the clock hours system does very little (a bubble in evaluation sheet) to ensure the PD offered is of high caliber. More is not more. Who is this system actually holding accountable? A teacher would have to be in a coma to not accumulate 150 hours of PD over a five year period. Moreover, if the PD is lacking in quality (which much of it is) or the participant has no interest in improving their practice (which sadly is often the case) a teacher could accumulate 1500 clock hours with no impact on students.

Personal: Unless you’re doing it for the money, why should we bother with clock hours? Admittedly, I long ago forsook ambitions of the (alleged) raises at the end of the X & Y rainbow. Can't I just sidestep the entire system? In four years, to maintain my cert, I will face the choice of doing the NBCT process or going through the Pro-Teach Portfolio process (again). If I complete boards I am rescued, from on-high, from the clock hours system and if I (choose the other path and) do Pro-Teach I will be awarded all the hours I need regardless of how many forms I did or didn’t dutifully fill out, pay for for accumulate in the interim. What's the point?

I am bothered that it has taken nine years in the game to understand this math. I promise that few recent grads from ed programs entering schools this fall understand it at all. That's nuts...

 I need someone to talk me down on this... do you understand the system better than I do? Am I wrong? Did you actually get that magical X/Y pay bump? Is there a better way in other states? The questions posed aren't rhetorical… I’d love to hear your thoughts, questions, experiences, etc. in the comments.

Nathan Bowling

Republic of Cascadia