National Board Certification

What’s Here

It’s official–I’m a National Board Certified teacher! Only those who have attempted the process themselves can understand the amount of pride (and relief) that accompanies that declaration. I certified in the 2005-2006 school year on my first go around, and it was by far the most challenging accomplishment of my career. I am honored to share my experiences and hopefully help out those who are undergoing the NBCT process.

Pages in This Section

Until January 12, 2012, all of my NBPTS information was on two very looong pages. I have now organized the info into separate pages to make it easier to find and link to what you’re looking for:


NBPTS5 Best NBPTS Resources

NBPTS Entry 4 Tips
NBPTS Time Management
NBPTS Writing Tips

 

Important Notes and Disclaimers

Before I share anything else, let me make four things very, very clear:

1) I am NOT an affiliate of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. I don’t attempt to represent their views and they don’t endorse anything on my site. I speak only as a private individual on a personal website.

2) I can NOT divulge anything more specific than what you see here. Please do not email me asking to see portfolio entries or questioning what was on the assessment center exercises. Candidates have to sign confidentiality statements and can have their certification revoked if they violate that agreement.

3) There is NO ‘magic formula’ for certifying, and I don’t mean to imply in any way that my methods were the ‘right’ or the only successful ones. Teaching is as much an art as it is a science, and NBPTS honors that. What I want to share are resources and tips for organizing your own ideas–not tell you how to teach or how to present your teaching in order to become a NBCT.

4) The assessment center exercises have changed considerably since I certified, and some of my strategies might not apply to the current AC. I’m told specifically that ACIA-HEART is not applicable now.

Okay, now that that’s said, let’s get on to some things that I’ve learned through the process that may be of use to those who are considering candidacy.

FAQs About Becoming an NBCT

What is National Board Certification?

Please visit the NBPTS website, which will explain everything you want to know. For me to go into detail here would be redundant, because there’s such a wealth of information on their site.

Why would I want to become Nationally Certified?

The biggest benefit is the improvement you see in your teaching practice. I have learned so much through this process because I’ve had to analyze what is effective and what isn’t in my teaching practice. My students are now excited about science because of the way I learned to teach it through my research for NBPTS. And I know almost all the grade level expectations for every subject area in grades PreK-3 because of the intense amount of studying I did for the assessment center. Another benefit to the NB process is that NBCT’s can teach in any state. But of course, money is the biggest incentive for most teachers, if they’re really honest (and I am!). Most states/districts provide financial incentives–you can find out what’s offered in your area by visiting your state department of education’s website or the NBPTS site. Click here to read about how NBPTS describes the benefits of becoming certified.

What do you have to do to become certified?

Lots of people–especially those not in the field of education–ask this question all the time, not realizing that it’s like saying, “So what exactly do teachers do all long?”. Ummm…how much time do you have for me to explain?  Here’s NBPTS’ answer to this question, in short form and with more detailed info. But, I’ll give a broad oversimplification of the NBPTS process: 4 portfolio entries and a computerized (written-answer) test. Two of the portfolio entries involve videotaping and reflecting on lessons, 1 requires you to collect and analyze student work, and 1 documents evidence of your professional growth, collaboration, and outreach to families and the community. The test portion has 6 parts. It’s timed, 30 minutes for each part. You take it at an assessment center on the computer, typing in your responses. And yes, there are fees involved (see if state/local incentives are available). The process IS as time-consuming as you’ve heard—I probably spent about 1,000 hours in total.

2 Questions That Will Cross Your Mind Repeatedly

Is it just me or is this process REALLY overwhelming?

It’s definitely not just you. There were days when I felt on top of the world, like my entries were going to score a 4.25, and other days when I was like, I am a total idiot for ever thinking that I could possibly become a NBCT. The highs and lows can make you feel like you are going crazy. I haven’t heard of ANYONE who went through this process and didn’t feel overwhelmed at times. If you ever feel like you are alone, go to your mentoring group (in person or online) and just vent. There were so many posts on the EC-Gen ring from people (including me) complaining, When will this be OVER? If I see the word ‘evidence’ one more time I’m going to scream! Can’t we just hurry up and get our scores? Don’t be afraid to speak up–other candidates will be relieved to know they are not alone, and those who completed the process can be available as proof that it IS possible to make it through the waiting game!

Why are the portfolio instructions so cryptic?

This is another area in which people begin to question their sanity—are the directions really that complicated or are you just missing something? The instructions ARE vague in many areas, in large part because NB wants you to interpret them broadly. The prompts are purposely open-ended so that you can interpret them in ways that meet your teaching style and your students’ learning styles. When I assessed for NB, I saw many, many different candidates earn 3′s and 4′s and NONE of the entries were anything alike. Every teacher is unique, from writing style to teaching context, and NB tries hard to honor that.

However, there are some ambiguities that are really frustrating and people ask the same questions over and over every year (Does ‘learning sequence’ mean just the lesson or the whole unit? How many kids constitute a ‘small group’?). NB has done a pretty good job answering these types of questions on their FAQs page. You can always email them for clarification–they get back to you within just a few days. And of course, that’s what you have online and in-person mentors for. The important thing to remember is…it’s NOT just you, the instructions are definitely hard to understand in places, and even after you re-read them several times, you may still be scratching your head trying to figure out exactly what ‘they ‘want! That’s perfectly normal.

Recommended Resources

Early Childhood Generalist

This free PDF publication on Inquiry Strategies for Science and Math from NWREL was extremely helpful for me: it’s quite lengthy (42 pages) but worth printing, highlighting, and reflecting on.

The National Science Foundation has put together a 117 page guide to inquiry science which you can also download for free here.

Mrs. Renz has an awesome page with resources for Inquiry Science, which you MUST know how to implement for the EC-Gen portfolio entry 3.

General NBPTS

Entry 4, Documented Accomplishments, is the one entry that all NB candidates must complete regardless of certification area, and it’s also one of the most widely misunderstood. These Entry 4 Guidelines from WEAC’s NBPTS page is enormously helpful: I wish there were one for the other entries, too! There are also free online trainings you can view here.

Abc123Kindergarten has a collection of links and books you might find helpful.

Ann Bacon, a teacher in my former school district, has compiled a tremendous amount of resources–very informative.

NB Myths Debunked by Mrs. Russ clears up misconceptions candidates often have. Highly recommended!

Savvy School Counselor has some great posts about the NBPTS process.

Here are some popular resources–I haven’t read them but I wanted to give you an idea of what’s available to help you. If you decide to purchase them, please consider clicking through to Amazon from here. A portion of the proceeds will benefit this site at no cost to you.

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More NBPTS Resources on This Site

NBPTS5 Best NBPTS Resources
NBPTS Entry 4 Tips
NBPTS Time Management
NBPTS Writing Tips

 

Now What?

Visit the main Professional Development page
Post a problem or idea for other teachers on the Message Board Forums page
Check out some amazing education writers on the My Favorite EduBlogs page
Read my latest thoughts and reflections about teaching on The Cornerstone Blog
See what new stuff has been added to the site recently on the Free Teacher Resources page

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Subscribe via email for blog updates, exclusive tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joleen Feazell January 28, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Thank you so much for all the great information. This will be my third attempt at certification. My entry two score did not change at all the second try and I am totally confused about what they want for a learning sequence. If you can offer any help, it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks, Joleen Feazell

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2 Angela Watson February 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

Hi, Joleen. Are you going for EC-Gen? I remember finding the term ‘learning sequence’ to be confusing as well, but as I recall, it refers to your unit activities. The learning sequence is basically the order in which you teach lessons within your unit. If you want to email me, I’ll try to help as best as I can. Do you have a mentor? Have you joined any of the online support groups I recommend?

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3 Keri Klayum April 5, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Hi Angela,
I certified in November, 2010 with my MC-Gen certificate. I used ACAI-HEART on my Assessment Center Exercises (I retook 3 as I didn’t certify the first go-round) and they helped me immensely.
I have a friend who is gearing up to take the exercises in May, and have recommended she use the acronym to make sure she covers her bases. Where did you hear it no longer applies? My friend who certified with me got that acronym last year from one of her mentors to help her…maybe it’s the difference between MC and EC?
Keri

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4 Angela Watson April 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Interesting, Keri! Congrats on certifying, by the way! I was sent several emails by various NBCT mentors asking me to change the info on my website regarding the ACIA HEART info. Check out this thread below for some details. Apparently people were misusing it and it no longer applies. But, if you’re saying it was still useful, that’s important for people to know, too. I’m glad you shared your experiences.

http://www.proteacher.net/discussions/showthread.php?t=323425

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5 Kelly Mueller April 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Hi Angela,

Your site is fantastic! Love your NB tips, of course. You do them all so well.

Here’s my personal opinion about A CIA HEART.

It started on our ecgen yahoo group ‘way back when’ – I think about 2004. Becca (NBCT now of CO) wrote it as a way to remember the standards. The standards were SUCH an important part of the AC. But the subject content was equally as important. We had to know what the subject matter was that we were applying those standards to! And everyone KNEW that. While we talked about A CIA HEART, we understood that it was simply a way to back up our content knowledge – sticking in all of those important standards as we talked about the content.

What happened was that over the years people began to FOCUS on the acronym – as if that alone was what the AC was all about – that if you could just remember the acronym and go in and spout off that (no matter what the topic was) that first you would check for prior knowledge and so on – that you would be fine. Well, that goes just so far. It’s great to check for prior knowledge IF YOU KNOW WHAT THAT TELLS YOU! … if you know where to go from there! … if you KNOW the content matter!

But what assessor friends were telling me (I’ll bet I heard the same things you were hearing!) was that candidates were coming in and writing out responses to AC exercises that went right down A CIA HEART —–with very little (if any) demonstration of knowledge of the content area. They said it appeared to be a cover up – a mask – pretending to be able to respond – but with no knowledge of content to back it up – that candidates were not even addressing the prompts at the AC!

What is basically important at the AC is to ANSWER THE PROMPTS – no matter what certificate area you are in! For our Early Childhood folks (Middle Childhood, too) – there is a lot of lesson planning you are called upon to do at the AC. You have to know your academic content areas AND how to deliver that instruction to the students (selecting a goal – selecting strategies – giving rationales)! So know the content – and the NB way of delivering that instruction! —-the Architecture of Accomplished Teaching (smile – I have a simplified way of remembering that on ecgen.org!). That Architecture is based on the 5 Core Propositions (as is everything NB). So are the Standards — and that’s what A CIA HEART was based on. It’s all the same thing!

When I closed the ecgen yahoo group and moved it to ecgen.org (for a LOT of reasons), I did not bring one thing about A CIA HEART with me. The reason I didn’t is because candidates were focusing on the acronym and not on the content and the art of delivering instruction. If you don’t know the content, the acronym isn’t going to do you any good. I’d rather focus on the content – on the prompts at the AC – and remind teachers to follow the Architecture (which we simplified for them to be able to easily remember it – giving them a very easy acronym for IT!). That way they are talking about ACCOMPLISHED TEACHING —- including the part about teachers knowing the subject they teach and how to teach it!

I’d say to anyone who used the old A CIA HEART acronym – great! Glad it worked for you. That says you knew your content. But as a whole, I no longer suggest it. Too many were relying on it to get them through without applying any other thought to it.

Again, I love your website. I have it listed on our “Recommended Websites” on ecgen.org.

Kelly Mueller
ecgen.org

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6 JoDee December 15, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Having trouble with entry 3 socail needs of students any ideas????

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7 Angela Watson December 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Hi, JoDee! You can email me at angelawatson [at] live [dot] com and I’ll be happy to help! :-)

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8 Kourtney January 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Hi Angela! Just stumbled upon your page while searching for unit ideas for entry 2. I have submitted twice now and am 10 points short. I have gotten a 2 on my science entry twice. I can’t seem to find a unit to teach and I don’t want to pay the money again until I am sure I have a unit that is what they are looking for. Do you have any recommendations or resources where I could find units others in Kindergarten have done?

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9 Angela Watson January 12, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Hi, Kourtney! The science entry for EC-Gen is tough! I think it was my lowest scoring entry. I don’t have recommendations for specific units, unfortunately. What skills/concepts are you teaching this month?

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10 Annie Arnone March 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Angela-
I stumbled on to your website and am impressed! I have a few questions though. I am stumped on my social studies entry. I had considered a debate possibility but I am so unsure how to format it in a way that would be conducive for this video. I also am struggling with the narrative writing piece for entry 1. I have the expoitory piece but am lacking on a topic for the narrative. I have lots of ideas but I just can’t seem to settle on anything because I am not sure what would be good. I don’t have a mentor so any help you could give woud be appreciated. I teach 5th grade at an at-risk school with 33 students in my class. I am MC-GEN as well. Thanks!

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11 Kate Nitzken September 24, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I received my National Board Certification last year. It was a rigorous process and I learned a great deal about my own practice as I prepared for the entries and exam. One of the main points that my mentors suggested to me is to really consider the answer to WHY I chose to do what I did in the lessons. I got tired of hearing the question, but it is the real reason that people pass. Think about this – YOU planned the lesson, YOU chose it to present, YOU also have to know why you did it, and YOU have to evaluate if it was successful. How was student learning enhanced from the experience? What can you do to move those who didn’t learn it to the next level? As I have read other teacher’s NBCT entries I have turned to them an asked that question. The struggle to answer this question well and with honestly is the challenge of teaching, and also the way to pass National Boards with flying colors!

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12 Angela Watson September 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

What a great point, Kate. I remember hearing WHY a lot from my mentors, too! It’s such a great habit to get into asking. There are many times when the answer is “because that’s the way I taught it last year” or “that’s the way I learned it”. It was great to force myself to think critically about why I was doing what I was doing. I agree that’s the foundation of the NBPTS process and I’m a better teacher now because of it.

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13 Amy G. December 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hi, Angela! I achieved National Board Certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist in 2004. I am now working on the renewal process and am looking for support. I have not been able to locate anyone online or in my geographic area who is working on renewal. (National Board Certification is not a common credential for teachers in my state.) I am hoping you – or someone else – might have a suggestion. Thanks!

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14 Kelly December 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Hi Amy,
There is a well-established ‘yahoo group’ for NB Renewal. There are many who have already renewed, some who have ‘evaluated’ (NBPTS calls those who score renewals ‘evaluators’), and many who are currently gong through the renewal process. The files have terrific graphic organizers. You can find it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NBCrenewal .
Hope his helps!
Kelly M

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15 Amy G. January 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Thanks, Kelly! I have joined the yahoo group. Huge help!

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16 Glen October 16, 2013 at 8:23 pm

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17 Elizabeth February 8, 2014 at 8:31 am

I am about to start the NBTC, I teach FL, Spanish. English is my second language. My English vocabulary isn’t as good as any other person who’s English is the first language. I got a loan to pay the NBTC. Do you know if there is a option to take the test in Spanish? Since the test is timed I won’t have enough time to think my answers and type.
Thank you for your help.

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