Teachers understand that being a lifelong learner is a core responsibility of their profession. Professional development opportunities abound for teachers, some of it very good and some of it, well, not so good.
Teachers understand that being a lifelong learner is a core responsibility of their profession. Professional development opportunities abound for teachers, some of it very good and some of it, well, not so good. Of all the professional development activities that I have taken part in during my sixteen-year teaching career, the most powerful, rewarding, and informative one was applying for and receiving National Board Teacher Certification (NBTC). It was also the most difficult and challenging one, but in the end, the process greatly informed my practice, and I truly believe it made me a better teacher.
In this post-standardization era, more and more emphasis is being placed on teacher performance, yet no truly accurate and effective tool currently exists for evaluating teachers. NBTC should provide the framework for future teacher evaluation. A teacher receives NBTC through study, expert evaluation, self-assessment, and peer review.
National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Mission
The mission of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is to establish benchmarks for the teaching profession and certify that teachers meet those standards. The NBPTS lists five characteristics of accomplished teachers, and these core propositions guide the assessment process.
NBC is an advanced teaching credential that is valid for ten years. Renewal candidates begin the renewal process during their eighth and ninth years of teaching. I finished working on my renewal a few weeks ago, and, once again, the experience changed the way I look at teaching and helped me reflect and improve on what I do in the classroom.
National Board Certification Process & Benefits
I received my National Board Certification in 2001. At that time, the process involved a six-entry portfolio, a reading list, and a rather lengthy test, which I took at an assessment center. Since that time, NBC has been revised to comprise ten assessments that are reviewed by trained teachers in their certificate areas; four portfolio entries that feature teacher practice; and six constructed response exercises that assess content knowledge.
As the NBPTS Web site explains, National Board Certification has many benefits. Among the many listed on their site, it strengthens practice, helps students succeed, demonstrates leadership skills, and advances careers. And because many states equate National Board Certification with state licensure, it allows teachers to move more easily from state to state. Many teachers are able to get continuing education credits as well. My school system provides fee reimbursement and an additional $3,000 for NBC status. NBCTs can also earn a stipend for mentoring new teachers.
Applying for NBC is an exhausting, overwhelming process, though it's also very rewarding. Applicants select subject and development areas and then are sent a large box of materials with instructions and portfolio requirements for that certificate. The ELA Certificate in Adolescent and Young Adulthood, for example, has four portfolio entries, including an Analysis of Student Growth in Writing, which requires the applicant to submit student work samples; Instructional Analysis of Whole-Class and Small Groups, both of which require the applicant to submit a 15-minute video; and Documented Accomplishments: Contributions to Student Learning, which illustrates the applicant's partnerships with students' families and community, and with other professionals.
The assessment center portion of NB Certification requires the applicant to complete four thirty-minute exercises that examine content knowledge specified in the NBPTS: Literary Analysis, Universal Themes, Teaching Reading, Language Study, Analysis of Writing, and Teaching Writing.
Yes, the process is grueling. But it is also so gratifying; the work truly makes you a better teacher. At my school, we have two National Board Certified teachers who guide applicants through the process, meeting at least once per month to answer questions and provide support and encouragement. For me, the hardest part is packaging up all the materials and sending them off in their big box. Having an extra pair of eyes to guide me in that process is wonderful.
If you are looking for a way to inform your practice, become a better teacher, and reflect on what you do in the classroom, I strongly recommend National Board Certification. It is an incredible experience that will profoundly change you.
For another teacher's perspective on the National Board Certification process, read Katherine Wiebke's article in Instructor Magazine entitled "My Journey Through National Board Certification." Special thanks to National Board Certified teachers Christina Porter and Mary Ellen Dakin, who agreed to have their pictures in this article. Both of them have been inspirational in my recertification process.