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Peering Out the Window


On this beauteous spring day, I’m sitting here in the man zone (my basement office), looking up through a casement window at a bird’s nest in the eaves of my neighbor’s roof. I’m thinking about... well, you know. The testing window is open until June 15. I have to figure out when to shimmy through before it slams shut. I’m having a hard time getting psyched to go do it-- I wonder if anyone else out there is feeling the same sense of ennui?

The assessment center seems anticlimactic, in a way, after the portfolio. Much as I cursed the process going through, I can’t deny that it was all about what was going on in and around my classroom. Somehow, the test center seems removed from that. It feels like a speed typing test.

This is a dangerous attitude, I know (I’m not cavalier, just toasted). Lord knows, I want to do as well as I can on the written test, at least well enough to get over the hump. A colleague of mine who certified last year has already blotted the math from his mind, but swears that it was the assessment section that was his saving grace.

I went back into the bible for motivation, and found this section on scoring:
For the Early Adolescence/ English Language Arts certificate, the weights are set at 16 percent for each of the three classroom-based portfolio entries, 12 percent for the Documented Accomplishments entry, and 6.67 percent for each of the six assessment center exercises. (EA/ELA 2006 pg 35)

In other words, 60 percent of the grade was in the portfolio. And 40 percent is still to be determined. My colleague was right; that’s a hefty chunk. It seems disproportionate. My year of blood, sweat and videotape versus one day of fast typing is hardly commensurate with a 3:2 ratio.

The rationale for this might be similar to the reasons the International Baccalaureate program, in which I used to teach English, weights the end of course essay tests far more heavily than the two papers written during the course. I remember never wanting to tell kids, during the months that they slaved over the lengthy literary analysis, that these papers were ultimately only worth 15 percent of the grade or so. We teachers saw the value in having the kids write the papers, even if the value wasn’t officially recognized. The bottom line for IB: the papers weren’t as “secure” as the test. There was no way of knowing how much a kid’s teacher had helped him, or how, on a 1500-word typed paper. But given the relative security of a testing environment, the evaluators could be pretty sure those hand-scrawled documents were kids’ own work.

So, does NBPTS not trust us? It’s the only conclusion I can draw based on the disparate weights of the portfolio and the assessment center. I’m not taking it personally, mind you. Standardized testing is what it is: certain measures are pragmatic, and must be taken when attempting to measure the achievement of tens of thousands of anonymous individuals.

The only other option I can conceive is worse: NBPTS doesn’t trust itself. The seemingly skewed weight of the two elements could be a tacit admission that portfolio scoring is more subjective than essay scoring. That’s a scary thought.

Maybe, as usual, I’m being too cynical. The 60/40 split might be a charitable way of giving differently-gifted candidates a chance to succeed. Some of us shine on tape; some perform best under the pressure of a timed writing.

Where does this leave me, little old Candidate # 011something-or-other? Pretty much back where I started this post. Staring out my window as wrens flit about, wondering when to go and get this thing over with.


I'm having the same problem - I can't motivate myself to study for this. BUT. . .I made my appointment long ago. I was warned by our support network to do so, or the location and time I wanted might not be available.

After all the work on the portfolio, I'm too burned out to do much of anything, especially something having to do with NBC, which just brings back memories of stress and frustration.

I feel the same way. I just keep looking at the prompts and the rubrics, but I need to research the ESL strategies... Sigh...
Best wishes to all. Your board has been my opium, Emmet. Thank you.

I took my tests yesterday. I'm happy with how I did. Typing speed is a major factor, as is remaining calm.

One thing I was not completely prepared for was the timing. On the 3-panel screen, the directions appear and the time begins counting down immediately. BUT, the prompts don't show up until you scroll through all of the directions. I started happily reading the directions (which are a little bit complicated for the Spanish listening exam, and not published anywhere I could find), and then I realized that the time was clicking away.

My advice: scroll down immediately so the prompt appears. (The "how to scroll" tutorial will have trained you to do this--ha, ha.) Assuming it's a normal test (no listening, etc.), you should be familiar with the directions and scoring part already. In the reading comprehension section (again, for Spanish) that top left panel was also where the reading passage was located.

I studied by reading the latest methodology book for foreign language teaching, doing some pleasure reading in Spanish, and watching Spanish TV.

Long time reader, first time poster. I also took my assessment yesterday in EA-ELA. I did probably 10 hours worth of preparation over the last two or three weeks, and used maybe 10% of the new information I used. It was hard to go in and get it done, but a big relief when it was over.

I also made my appointment a long time ago, as the spots on Saturdays and locally fill up quickly. It was a very quick 3 hours - just flew by, and I think 30 min for each question was just enough time. Any more, and I'd be tempted to add BS. My best advice - read through all the prompts first, then try to keep your answers as plain and simple as possible (hard for us English teachers). Also, make sure you put quotes from the samples into your response - they mention in each prompt to be specific and use evidence.

Good luck!

Just wanted to post a good luck message. As a past English teacher, now in the behind-the-scenes research domain, I have earnestly followed your blogging over the past months. You are a wonderful writer and capture such complex insights in your blog entries-- this can only help in your timed writing for the big test.

Hi and good luck. My best advice--> use bullets, be short and sweet, and answer each part of the question. It is exactly what it says it will be.
Lots of luck!

The reason that 40% of the National Board Certification is a content-on-demand test is because of Core Proposition Two: teachers must demonstrate mastery over their subject, a deep understanding and structural knowledge of disciplinary content.

Most of us in the classroom thoroughly understand that it doesn't matter how much you know about Wordsworth and Keats, if you can't make them come alive for teenagers. Content expertise is never enough. However--being able to relate to and motivate kids without deep disciplinary knowledge is also not enough. You have to know your stuff, in order to teach it well.

I once mentored a candidate whose classroom entries were all assessed as "accomplished," but did not meet that benchmark on any of his six content tests. His students clearly adored him; he was a fun, engaging guy. However, he did not have a strong background in the subject he was teaching.

The scoring system is designed so that a single low score will not be a "fatal flaw." A string of low scores, however, means that the assessment has revealed something important about a teaching practice.

While most candidates at this time are exhausted, a review of disciplinary basics is something all teachers ought to consider from time to time. Teachers who regularly read professional journals and stay abreast of issues in the field find themselves better prepared for the AC exercises.

I read your post on the six content strands--you understand what's being asked in every assessment. As Harriet notes--it's exactly what it says it will be. And it is important in the work of teaching.

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post

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