Resources for National Board Certification candidates

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

I have now organized the info into separate pages to make it easier to find and link to what you’re looking for:

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.

Also please note this page has not been updated since 2012.

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. 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.national-board-certification-300x300

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