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Date Author Title
2011-03-28 Steve Gardiner National Board Certification (Part 1)

From the first time I heard about National Board Certification for teachers, I knew I would want to try to achieve it. I knew it was a difficult process, but I believed that if I could find a group of colleagues for support, we could finish the process, learn much along the way, and I hoped, become National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). By the time I was ready to attempt the process, we had a group of five teachers in my building who wanted to participate. We decided to launch in.

Founded in 1987, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Arlington, Virginia, has been a leader in establishing standards for high performance in America's teachers. The first NBCTs were recognized in 1994 and since then, some 91,000 teachers have achieved that distinction.


It is not easy. The standards, written by teams of teachers from across the nation, are demanding and expect the very best performance. Teachers usually spend six to nine months and an average of 300 hours working on the portfolio containing ten entries, explained in detail on the National Board website. Candidates must videotape two lessons in their own classrooms and then write an explanation of what the goal of each lesson was, why they chose that lesson, how successful the lesson was and why (or why not), and what could be done to improve the lessons in the future.


In addition, one entry requires teachers to collect and analyze student work and show how the efforts improved student learning. Another entry asks teachers to recount their professional involvement in activities outside the classroom in helping other teachers, being involved in the community, and improving their own education and professional skills.


Those four entries are worked on over a period of months in the teacher's classroom. The final six entries test teacher content knowledge and are completed at a computer center. Teachers have 30 minutes to answer each of the questions which ask about making effective lesson plans, designing programs, meeting the needs of individual students, explaining how to best teach a topic, and other related scenarios. Teachers have a general question which will help them prepare for the testing center, but do not know the exact question until it is presented on the computer screen.


The ten portfolio entries are then shipped to the National Board at the end of March. The packages are separated and delivered to scoring sites across the country. During the summer, teachers are trained to one specific entry and spend up to three weeks scoring the candidates. After the scoring is finished, the scores from each entry are tabulated into a composite score for each teacher. That score is released near the end of November each year.


A composite score of 275 is required to achieve National Board Certification. If the score is at or above that, the teacher receives a letter of congratulations from the National Board and is eligible for any benefits that a state or district might provide. If the score is below 275, the candidate may choose to bank scores from entries that were successful and retake any low entries. Candidates have up to three years to complete the process and achieve certification. The success rate is about 40 percent the first year and increases up to 65 percent by the end of the third year.


The group of five teachers I worked with was very supportive. Even though we were in a variety of certification areas, we met weekly to discuss our work and share in the concerns we had about such challenging tasks. All five of us were able to complete the National Board Certification process and become NBCTs. We learned a lot about each other and ourselves during this time, and the professional relationships we developed then are still very strong eight years later.


For me, working on National Board Certification was an incredible professional development activity. It brought me closer to colleagues, made me examine what I was doing in my own classroom, and helped me see ways to improve my teaching practice. Every part of the project was directly related to what I was doing in the classroom, and that is the most important aspect of all.

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