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Reuse, Recycle, Reflect

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I’ve reached that manic stage of pre-school preparation where I’m slapping together documents with the reckless abandon of a... well, of a teacher before the first week of school. Syllabi, letters home, program reports, field trip requests. If only I were paid by the word for this sort of week. Certain paragraphs, at a time like this, tend to get used more than once. For example, here’s a pithy one about the canoe which is more or less the abstract from the original grant proposal penned last spring:

Our tenth grade Humanities class will get a boats-eye view of history, culture, and technology as we build an authentic Native American canoe using traditional stone tools at Mount Vernon Estate in conjunction with the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. Students will discover the rich nexus of cultural and environmental influences that reside in the unlikely form of an age-old wooden canoe as they select and harvest a tree, use indigenous stone tools to burn and scrape the rough-hewn log, and finish it with pine tar. Beyond the classroom, we will join the regional celebration of Jamestown’s 400th Anniversary by connecting with organizations like the National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where we will display our finished product in the summer of 2007. We will create a website to document this year-long project.

Here’s a second paragraph in heavy rotation this week, about a project that my freshmen will do in what we call “IBET”:

Ninth grade students in an integrated biology, English and technology program from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology will embark on an exciting partnership with public and private groups to monitor the water quality of an important local wetland. The Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1998, is a square mile of water and woods at the confluence of the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers in nearby Woodbridge, Virginia. Working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and a nonprofit conservation group, Friends of the Potomac River Refuge, students will design and execute original research experiments and gather water quality data from Catamount and Marumsco Creeks as part of what will be an ongoing effort to determine the impact of nearby development on the local watershed.

I share these paragraphs because I’m pretty sure I’ll use both of them again, in some form or another, as part of my portfolio for board certification. And, while it’s difficult to look too far over my shoulder amidst the flurry of planning for the upcoming year, in order to complete the still looming Entry Four, in addition to reusing this year’s most popular paragraphs I will need to spend time reflecting on past classroom adventures.

(Entry Four, as faithful readers of this blog or other NBPTS-savvy types will recall, tasks a candidate to describe, analyze and document “accomplishments that contribute to student learning.” In this blog, I’ve spent quite a bit of time hemming and hawing over how to do this, with the best intentions of having actually completed the entry itself by this point. I haven’t. If you too are trying to do Entry Four, see: How To Eat an Elephant, April 9; Describe, Analyze and Reflect on This, April 23; Tastes Like Chicken, April 30; Artists of Our Profession, May 7; Eat, Sleep and Breathe, May 21; The Crowded Classroom, June 4; BS Artist, June 18; During Apple-Picking, June 25.)


With one eye to the future, then, your now-cross-eyed guide glances back in time several years to retrieve another blurb, polished by frequent use then, that describes a program I developed at my last school:

How can children hold learning in their hands? At ACDS, we seek to answer that question with an exciting new program called Learning Alive! This experiential education program takes students beyond page or screen, and even beyond our walls themselves, to create opportunities that our students will cherish for a lifetime.
In the middle school, students learn and apply outdoor skills on overnight trips in the fall and spring. Outings are springboards to understanding rich local and natural history, and provide the chance to master basic outdoor skills that foster a lifelong sense of independence and confidence. Throughout the year, students at all grade levels participate in curriculum-specific field trips conceived by classroom teachers, or age-appropriate outdoor activities including local canoeing, biking, and rock climbing. Guided writing and discussion nurture observation and reflection, and ultimately, a sense of connection to community and the environment.

And so, another document (this week’s post) is cobbled together in record time with a few odd paragraphs found lying around the desk. And, as I continue to inch toward actually assembling my NBPTS portfolio, the process already begins to illuminate patterns in my teaching and philosophy that I had only vaguely recognized before.

39 Comments

Mr. Rosenfeld,

I knew National Board Certification was a scam when I was unable to access my information until January, when it was supposed to be available the previous November. The Board failed me, an 18 year veteran of the trenches, a teacher of teachers, a grant and technical writer, a consultant for graduate student dissertations, and the state teacher of the year. I had 11 days to file an appeal - at a cost of course. The Board informed me that I should simply pay the cost to resubmit the failed component. I told told them I was not going to do that until I knew why the component had scored a 1, when it should have been a 4 or more. When I called the Board to ask to speak to someone in "a position of authority and power", I was told point blank that I was not allowed to speak to anyone and none of the reviewer's comments about my portfolio could be released to me. What an unbelievable scam. I contacted 4 attorneys about filing a lawsuit against the National Board, all willing to do so, but I could not afford the cost.

I am an anti-National Board Certification advocate and their most outspoken critic. They are an example of the worst and most troubled aspects of public education. As a teacher of future teachers, I admonish the students to never be suckered into applying for the piece of worthless paper.

I also believe NBPTS are the biggest scam in education today. Will you contact me? I want to write about this scam and begin to expose them for what this is. What if a teacher told a student no feedback was available and a student could not talk to the person who graded his/her test? that teacher would be fired immediately. Yet, they do this to us and we pay for it. How do we even know our portfolio was graded??? They cannot prove anything was even done -- our scores could have been computer generated for all we know.

I would like to hear more from both of you. I did contact a lawyer, for various problems I saw in the process. Although he does not feel qualified in this area, he still feels I should pursue it. Have either of you investigated this further?

I still would like to hear from either of you. There is an issue here that needs to be investigated. I missed certifying by .058 of a point. I also scored lower on a retake assessment answer that I scored higher using only one of the two prompts available. I too asked to reveiw my answers, in a closed location, at their choosing. I was told no. Please write back.

Sorry Peggy! I never really checked back on this website now! I would like to chat again though. Please e-mail me at [email protected]

All the best!

Sorry Peggy! I never really checked back on this website now! I would like to chat again though. Please e-mail me at [email protected]

All the best!

This is my 3rd attempt and I received the lowest scores ever, even having the help of two mentors. One of the mentors is NB certified and the other is practically the Physical Education Chair Person from the County School's Department. What did I do wrong this time?

This is my 3rd attempt and I received the lowest scores ever, even having the help of two mentors. One of the mentors is NB certified and the other is practically the Physical Education Chair Person from the County School's Department. What did I do wrong this time?

This is my 3rd attempt and I received the lowest scores ever, even having the help of two mentors. One of the mentors is NB certified and the other is practically the Physical Education Chair Person from the County School's Department. What did I do wrong this time?

This is my 3rd attempt and I received the lowest scores ever, even having the help of two mentors. One of the mentors is NB certified and the other is practically the Physical Education Chair Person from the County School's Department. What did I do wrong this time?

I agree, this is a billion dollar scam! What's even more disturbing is that the public is being suckered into paying more tax dollars to teachers who complete a 6-month course.

I wrote this letter and sent it to "60 Minutes". I will not be taking this again. Instead I am devoting my time into exposing them. There really needs to be a class action law suit against them.
-------
MY LETTER
_______

I feel compelled to write to anyone that will listen. I will try and be as brief as possible. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has many educators, legislators, and entire school districts fooled! Over recent years there has been great emphasis placed on a 6-month program as the savior of the American Educational system. In fact, in most districts, the pay raise for completing this program is sometimes triple the amount of obtaining a masters degree. Therefore, many educators are now opting to become “National Board Certified”, (which is equivalent to 3 graduate school credits) instead of furthering their post-graduate education.

I graduated in both my undergraduate and graduate programs with honors and have never felt in any instance during my educational experience as "being set up to fail.” However, having completed the NBPTS process along with the "Exam" has led me to feel this way. In an effort to make this program seem credible, only about half of the candidates complete/pass the process in their first try.

Like many of my colleagues, I was enticed by the pay increase that certification promised. However, shortly after examining the procedures and work involved, I began to wonder as to the validity of such a program as being the standard for which we call a teacher “Highly Qualified.” Moreover, after speaking with some candidates who have failed the process several times, questionable areas of the program became evident. Although the principles of the NBPTS are consistent with the concerns facing education in the 21st century, the program is fundamentally unsound in many areas and leaves much room for improvement.
I have outlined 5 MAJOR areas of concern:

1. The program does NOT discuss or reveal why a candidate has failed a particular section of the program. The only options are to pay a fee and re-take the section or again pay a large fee and appeal your score. Therefore, there is NO input, guidance or collaboration by any representative of the National Board as to how a candidate can improve his craft or what he or she did wrong (if anything).

2. The program is based on a series of written entries in which the candidate is asked to reflect and assess his or her teaching practices in certain areas. Since the program is self-guided, the National Board has no way of determining if the candidate is actually completing the entries. In fact, he or she can obtain help from whomever they wish and there is no way of verifying the completed material.

3. There is a limit as to how much a candidate can write in their entries. Surprisingly, this was the hardest aspect of completing this area. The questions were VERY detailed and require in-depth responses. The expectations of shortened or condensed responses has led me to believe that the inflated language is used only to make the program appear to be something it’s not.

4. The exam is completely meaningless! You are asked to give responses to questions that take much longer to answer than the allotted time given. Moreover, the types of questions were, well, “questionable”? For example, instead of asking a barrage of questions to test my special education knowledge, I was asked to give the definitions of a few obscure disorders. One would have to wonder why they would not ask a series of questions that would truly test ones special education professional vocabulary?

5. The last and probably the most disturbing is the actual assessors who are determining your scores. Many are NOT National Board Certified and are not even teaching in the content area they are grading!

In all, the prospect of educators pursuing NBPTS certification instead of a postgraduate education is frightening. Are we to measure a quality teacher by how well he or she can write a 13-page essay? In fact, there are many studies that suggest that national board certified perform no better than the average teacher in terms of student achievement gains.

Furthermore, there is something inherently wrong with compensating an individual more for having completed what is equivalent to one college level course than someone who has committed 3 + years to furthering their educational knowledge by completing a Masters Degree. Furthermore, a credible program to improve student-teacher outcomes should be based on training, instruction, and collaboration with professional colleagues. Not from a program that provides NO guidance, NO recommendations or evaluations, and NO suggestions as to how to improve their teaching skills or to better student learning.

The solution is really very simple. Combine the two: whereas a Masters degree in a content area and the completion of the NBPTS program would be required in order to hold the title of “National Board Certified”. However, the NBPTS would have to take the necessary steps to improve their methods. Using “real” teachers in “real” classrooms would be a great start.


NBPTS - National Board for Pimping Teachers and Suckers.

I will contact my congresswoman. This certification is ridiculous. This is no feedback. I knew it was a scam when my wife did not have any feedback. Are you kidding me? I can't think of any other certification where there is no feedback. It is a cash cow, and teachers are being led to the slaughter.

Gerry:

I'm doing the same thing here in Florida uncovering the truth and my frustration about this hoax. Your letter is great and hope this will get the desire attention. Please let me know how can I help you. You can reach me at [email protected]

Oh please contact me.

I also have a lot of information about my own case. I also contacted a lawyer who felt I had a case, but he did not know how I should pursue it.

I missed certification by .07 of a point and of course it was the final time I could take the test.

The worst part was that the test I retook was one I failed to answer the second prompt on the first try. However, I scored higher on the first attempt (answering only one prompt) than I did the second time around (answering both prompts). Go figure.

I have a lot of correspondence and other materials I would be more than happy to share. I told my friend that I really should proceed this year because I think time is running out.

Peggy

I also have realized that National Board is a complete crock. Fortunately I did so before I submitted anything but I will have to pay back $500 in scholarship money for this scam.

This is the first time in many years that I have been pursuing justice against nbpts, that I have seen so many disgruntled participants. To go against this "royal" institution was almost criminal. A class action lawsuit is what is needed, but it needs people. I am in for the count and am willing to put effort into this cause. Anyone else?

What is the basis for a class action lawsuit? Wouldn't it be more effective for us to publicize our criticisms in articles in respected journals or magazines? That being said, how can we do that without being ostracized by the establishment which has bought into this scam? In a related development, did you hear that the Pearson group will now be scoring National Board entries?

Wow, sorry GUYs I have not checked this blog since I wrote my letter to 60mins.

Of coarse, they didn't write back. I am extremely busy and have not even thought about this scam. To tell you the truth, I just wanted to forget the ordeal.

I'm just angry that in some districts teachers that get this cert. are being payed more than someone with a MA.

i wrote to my union and asked why. They replied -"It's harder to get the cert. than a masters". They are right - the scammers - know that and that is the reason why they fail most teachers who want to pursue the monetary benefits.

As far as the class action law suit - we need a congressman or legislator who will take up the cause.

Gerry

Maybe now that the economy has tanked most school districts won't have money to pay for this foolishness. It's time for this worthless and possible destructive program to vanish from the scene.

I went through the NBPTS process twice...I scored lower the second time than the first. I had someone who was a "pioneer" read my entries the second time and was assured I would certify. My evidence was clearly there. This is a scam...have you seen the assessors on teacher tube? Not impressive at all. I think they have unqualified assessors. How can a third year teacher that doesn't even have to have gone through this process themselves have the qualifications to judge this? Most third year teachers I know barely know the subject matter...something must be done about this.

I am a teacher in Chicago and would like to be part of any effort that exposes the huge flaws in NBPTS. I wholeheartedly agree that the scoring system, needs to be much more transperent. I did not meet the standards and tested three times. I have been teaching for 15 years and I am extremely confident in my abilities. However I am always willing to learn new ideas but how am I to improve on my practice if I don't even know what I did wrong? And that is exactly what happens under NBPTS, according to them you fail but there isn't and feedback. This extremely flawed needs to be exposed for what it is.

I think it is pretty hilarious that at my school one of the worst teachers just got certified while one of the best flunked with really low scores. Just goes to show that the NBPTS is really one big, giant, money-making SCAM! The Teachers' Unions who are in bed with these people should be ashamed of themselves!

Does anybody have any concrete information on the steps we need to take in order expose NBPTS? I do agree that this program if allowed to continue as is, can be very destructive to our educational system.

I just received my scores for the second time. I turned in much better entries and received much lower scores. This needs to be brought to the forefront. I am very knowledgeable in the content that I teach. I possess a masters degree in curriculum and a plus 30. This is ridiculous.

Well I just got my scores last week.....If the economy was not in such horrid condition I would return to the private sector. Since the education system in the country is skewed to the reward mediocrity, (and worse) since it does not matter whether you are a good teacher, since it only matters how long you have been a teacher, I thought getting NBC would be “something”. Well I was certainly wrong. I did everything I was told at the cohort, I was told my writings were exceptional by people who had passed the prior year. I have more meaningful Accomplishments in my 8 years of teaching than most people have in 30 but yet I scored a 2.5????? I filmed 2 real classes, not 2 staged events as many did. I had my Adv Programming class do actual work in a team environment, work that would actually occur in the real world, a project that would require higher level thinking skills….I got a 1.25 on the Portfolio. Who graded it? Someone who thinks a keyboard instruction is pressing the “K” key on an IBM Selectric typewriter?
A person who passed this thing had a project where they taught how to sew 2 pieces of fabric together. I guess I am supposed to dumb down my lessons and stage them “for the judges”. It seems that what they want me to do. I had one cohort leader who passed the prior year who redid her video over and over again, staged it, complete with scripts and “paid” students with pizza & cookies in order to get them to “buy in”. I am not getting this second hand, she told me that is what I should do in order to pass.

I won’t even get into how they provide scores with no feedback.

I am so angry I didn’t even want to return to work today. I know I sound like a sore loser, but I am so disillusioned about being a teacher right now I wonder why I ever went to the trouble. I left a pretty good career as a Project Manager & Software Developer to teach. What was I thinking? Do this again????? Retake???? NO CHANCE!

Does anybody know of a forum we can use in order to have these very seriuos concerns known to the general public? How can we reach other teachers?

At $300 per question retake, it is clear that the NBPTS is a huge money-making proposition. Why don't we check public records to find out how much the head honchos at this outfit are being paid?

The more I see NBPTS members operate, the more it seems like a cult. There is an "us" and "them" mentality with the intimation that "they" are better than "us."

I missed NB by 2 points the THIRD time around, after doing everything possible to bring my scores up. I agree that this is a complete scam. It is all about money. I would love to expose them and sue them for the money that I paid for my retakes over the years. Not to mention the time and effort that I wasted. At least when I got my masters, it was guaranteed if you completed the work. If anyone has any ideas on how to bring them down, count me in.

I missed NB by 2 points the THIRD time around, after doing everything possible to bring my scores up. I agree that this is a complete scam. It is all about money. I would love to expose them and sue them for the money that I paid for my retakes over the years. Not to mention the time and effort that I wasted. At least when I got my masters, it was guaranteed if you completed the work. If anyone has any ideas on how to bring them down, count me in.

We are literally days away from knowing our scores. I have taught 20+ years in many schools and have seen many teachers who honestly, don't know what they're doing. Colleges don't properly prepare student teachers and mentor teachers' qualifications aren't checked for their ability to teach methods or practices. Workshops have become ways to accrue clock hours with no accountability for improved practice. Administration is eagerly looking for ways to increase student engagement and raise achievement. At the same time, teachers complain when their practices are examined or their job performance is evaluated with any amount of real scrutiny.
NBPTS was my first opportunity to really delve into my craft and examine it. In my cohort, there were 10 of us reading each others' entries. I would say that 7 of them have no business passing. They're nice people, they love kids, they have great ideas... But many of them don't follow the precepts of best practices and they need to know that. I wish, however, that all those who don't certify were sent back through some methods classes to identify where they're the weakest.
If all teachers lived up to NBPTS expectations, I don't know where the state of American education could be.

So go ahead and sue. What are you going to tell a judge? I wanted it to be like my M.A., because no one fails an M.A. program. I want to keep registering for classes, with little consequence for my performance and little improvement in my craft, and get a degree that's basically a receipt of money paid and hours of seat-time completed.

i just found out today that failed for the third time, also only 2 points away. I am considering paying the 500 to appeal because i am disgusted and furious. i think the whole thing is a scam, but now i am so deep in i can't afford to go back. help! what do we do?

I too believe that I have been screwed. I have an Masters of Education and am a Certified LMS with twenty years of teaching experience. I have a 4.0 GPA from graduate school, have written numerous grants, served on the leadership committee for curriculum, been a mentor teacher, and have also been teacher of the year. I did not certify the third year in a row! I scored a 274. I missed by one point! How can they do this to us. I worked with mentors, went to all the meetings, and did above and beyond yet other teachers that I know certified. I know a teacher that made up her entries for Special Ed and still certified. Another that did all four entries in Science in two weeks and certified. Both of these teachers were on plans for improvement by the building administrator. I never thought it was a scam but my eyes are open! I want my money back.

Count me in too. It was very difficult to come up with the over $7,000 that I payed for the privelege of being a three time national teaching failure. The truth is that what the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards organization did to me was wrong.

I agree with everyone that has written here. Iam also on my 3rd time and to be honest I am not sure if I'll pass this time. They want a miracle from people. We should be able to have a class action lawsuit for all the time and money we put in and the aggrevation

I started a Facebook group titled "NBPTS- I gave it my best, I failed, and now I feel duped!" Please join my group and let's start making our voices heard! Thank you.

I too am completely disheartened with my national board experience. I have passed three of the four entries, but it has taken me three years and thousands of dollars. I received a score of 1 on my last entry...and I will never know why. I am happy for the classroom teachers in my building who have passed, but as the only music teacher, can't help feeling like a failure.

We need to start a class action lawsuit for fraud, and unfair practices.

I am not certain where you are getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time studying more or understanding more. Thank you for magnificent information I was in search of this information for my mission.

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