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National Board Certification: What's It Worth?


As the number of National Board-certified teachers continues to rise at an exponential rate—two percent of the teaching population is expected to be certified by the end of 2008—some worry that the value of certification will diminish. Comparing board certification to master's degrees, experts say that monetary incentives will motivate so many teachers to pursue the credential, it will no longer be a marker of teacher effectiveness.

Will an exponential increase in the number of teachers being certified lessen the worth of National Board certification? What do you think about the evaluation process? Is National Board certification an indicator of teacher effectiveness?


My year of candidacy helped me to grow tremendously. It was not only the process of examining my practice, tracking and reflecting upon my interactions with students, and evaluating how what I was doing in the classroom and with parents leading to student achievement, it was having a group of people (I pursued through a cohort program) to collaborate with, to ask questions, and to get feedback about my practice. I understand why teachers are more effective following their year of candidacy--it's because those lessons learned are fresh in your mind. Being the only candidate on a staff is isolating. People do not understand the pedagogy you are talking about nor are they willing to collaborate at the depth that the process requires: examining student work, planning, videotaping classes and receiving peer feedback. It's frustrating to meet so much resistance to best practices when teachers don't identify themselves as NBPTS hopefuls. I was greeted with the notion that "that's your thing, I'm going to do what has always worked for me." Pursuing NBC was absolutely worth it. I've never felt more prepared. The greatest thing it has done for me is it has made me look at the "warm fuzzy" projects that I do and really scrutizine how they impact student achievement. I have not had to scrap them nor have I had to scrap my passion for teaching, I just now understand that assessments must be aligned to standards, and activities must lead to mastery. So often, it's just a matter of better planning, and occassionally, giving up my pet projects.

One of the best professional growth experiences that a school system can offer teachers is the National Certification process. While pursuing a masters degree is a wonderful reward for school districts, the bottom line of the masters degree is that the teacher has proven that s/he is a good student and can learn. On the other hand, National Certification shows the good teacher how to be better, and the award of National Certification shows that the teacher is a good teacher. One can argue that having a masters degree will improve the quality of teaching, but the bottom line of both programs is very different.

I agree with Judith that being the only teacher in a district pursuing candidacy can be isolating. To date, I am the only one in my district who has gone through the process. There is no remuneration offered. My state pioneered the NCP, but has not followed up with money. Be that as it may, there are many teachers who do not understand or implement best practices when teaching. There are many teachers who are not concerned with what students are learning. Experiencing the National Certification process will change that mind set forever. This process is good for students and good for learning. National Certification is not for everyone, only for those who wish to be better teachers.

I am blessed to be a teacher in North Carolina. My initial National Board attempt was fully paid by NC, as was my one retake. While my district paid my expenses for my master’s degree over 18 months, and I learned a great deal, I found that the National Board certification process is unparalleled by any other educational pursuit. The level of focus, reflection, and introspection over a few months during a school year is intense. The standards encompass teaching excellence. Who would possibly think that certification could be diminished by growing numbers of teachers? The more certified teachers – the better. Students reap the benefits.

I have also been involved in the scoring process. Intensive training precedes actual scoring. Trained assessors score entries and assessments; many are scored by two or three different assessors. Retraining takes place throughout the entire scoring process, and all scores are reviewed by trainers and/or directors. Every submission, first to last, is treated with respectful, thoughtful consideration, and the same standards apply to each.

The additional pay from NC over the ten years that certification is active is one of the perks. However, many teachers choose to pursue certification in states, or positions, where nothing is paid and no monetary gain is awarded. The process is the most personally rewarding whether a person achieves certification, or not. It would be difficult to measure student benefits of all teachers who at least made, and learned from, the attempt.

I would recommend the National Board process to every teacher. You will learn so much about student needs and your professional practice in the attempt. You will grow beyond your expectations.

I cannot think that more teachers earning the distinction of being a nationally certified teacher weakens the distinction of having earned that credential. As stated above, teachers who take on this arduous process become better teachers. Isn't that what we want for as many teachers as possible? The question posed-will the value of the certification diminish if more teacher earn it-seems a little snobbish. I would think that, if the standards and requirements of earning national certification infuse teachers with the desire for continuous improvement and reflection, then it shouldn't matter how many teachers earn it. The problem is whether the National Board will keep their standards high.

The value of National Board certification will diminish IF the standards for certification are decreased. It's ridiculous to think that only so many teachers should be nationally certified. In fact, I think our goal should be that ALL teachers meet these the national standards. Don't we want excellent teachers in every single classroom throughout our country?

The perception that having more teachers earn National Board Certification is so sad. I am working toward my National Board Certification this year, and have encouraged colleagues to join me on this journey. As Mary wrote, above, it would be wonderful if ALL teachers aspired to grow and pursued National Board Certification. As long as the standards aren't watered down, and the process remains rigorous, why should increased numbers of Board Certified teachers reduce the value of the Certification? Do we believe that only a limited number of our students can earn an "A"? It is true that grade inflation has reduced the value of an "A," but as teachers we believe in the potential for all students to succeed and excel. Why should we reduce our hopes and dreams for teachers? From everything I've heard, the rigor and reliability of the National Board Certification process is intact. More teachers are working toward Board Certification because we are encouraged and inspired by those who have paved the way.

While I agree with the positive comments already made, I found the final element of the NBC process to be such a disappointment after all the work I had done in my pursuit of this certification. I had chosen the computerized assessment in the area of middle school math. At that time, I had been teaching 7th and 8th grade math for 25 years and considered myself to have been pretty good at helping my students to understand and enjoy math at that level and beyond. And I have always felt that timed tests were not the most effective way to assess student understanding of concepts. I opted for the computerized test and after it was over, I just knew I had not done well. It was the most stressful experience of the entire process as I felt I was not able to adequately show what I understood about the concepts presented and how to best teach them. So, I didn't make the certification. It was a huge disappointment and made me doubt my abilities. But, I will say that everything else about the process was very rewarding in that I thought so deeply about teaching and learning. I couldn't afford to pay the fee to retake the test, and after my experience with the assessment component, I won't try for NBC again. I'm beginning my 30th year of teaching, and I don't need a special piece of paper to tell me that I'm a good teacher. I love to learn, love to teach, and I inspire my students in so many ways that are just not easy to assess.
Good luck to all pursuing NBC. Maybe it's just not my thing!

I received my national board certification in 2000, after going through a very rigorous process. I was told that the percentage of applicants did not make it the first time (I did). I believe I did receive it because of the enormous amount of hours I put into it. After receiving my certification, there were many opportunities afforded to me. However, the one I loved the most was teaching my students. National Board Certification helped me to understand that I was an exceptional teacher. All the people who told me that over the years went unheard by me. I never really believed or could comprehend what my instruction really involved, i.e., lots of planning, reading, research and knowledge about my students. These were just a few of the many things a teacher must learn to do.

When any type of assessment is given out too freely and a disproportionate number of applicants pass it, it lowers the standards for everyone. To cite an example, I took coursework for principal certification. I took the state exam which I passed with a high score. I found that test to be so easy that I could have passed it without the coursework I took. Now I understand numerous newer and veteran teachers are taking and passing the test. I can understand why. The standards need to be more rigorous. Prior to the state mandated test, principals did not have to take a test - just pass the coursework or a program within the school district. What kind of administrative leaders and teachers will we turn out if the majority of people are passing these tests? We want rigor and high standards for our students, why shouldn't we demand the same from educators?

Diane Steiner

An addendum to my response.

I am absolutely in favor of National Board Certification. I believe it to be the most powerful form of professional development an educator can undertake. However, NBPTS, must continue to demand excellence from its applicants. To increase the numbers by lowering the standards is not the way to go. I think NBPTS will continue to demand excellence from its applicants.

I am the parent of a teacher in an urban inner city setting. We have watched the growth and dedication over the past 6 years including achieving a Masters going parttime evenings and summers followed by an even more intense year working toward NBC. There was much joy and relief today when the successful score was revealed. And, then came the dissection of the scores by area. This is one teacher who has clearly learned and grown a great deal but is also aware that there is always room to improve and whose students have already begun to benefit from the work of the past year.

In no way will the value of NBC be diminished if more teachers achieve. Their students will be the beneficiaries. Having witnessed the amount of work that is involved in preparing the portfolio alone, I can not imagine that anyone beyond a dedicated teacher could survive the process which does require hours of work and a fair amount of introspection to evaluate what and how one teaches. As long as NBC maintains it rigorous standards, those teachers who survive and achieve will grow and become better teachers (and hopefully stay in and enrich the public school system especially in those areas where we need teachers who can inspire and ignite a love a learning).

I went through the process of certification last year and only recently found out that I passed. I already have a Master's degree. However, the classes I took for my Master's program rarely ever directly impacted what I did in the classroom. That is not the case with the NB process. The standards and demands for each portfolio are a daily practical application of high standards and activities in the classroom. Last year was one of my toughest years in the classroom, in part because I was trying to fulfill the requirements of NB certification.

At the beginning of this year our district held a meeting for prospective NB candidates. I attended along with those who already had earned their NB certification. One potential candidate asked me if it was worth it. Without knowing my results (I was at least 55% sure I'd not passed), I said: absolutely. Regardless of whether I had passed, I know I am a better teacher for having gone through the NB certification process. The process was far more beneficial to my pedagogy and to my students than any graduate college class I've taken.

As many have already said above, the increasing percentage of NBCTs in the classroom does not decrease the value of certification. A higher percentage of NBCTs will only strengthen our profession. School boards would do well to support candidates in their district as much as possible.

I would like to know what has been the highest score achieved by a nbc teacher?

I think it's very frustrating to read articles and comments about the validity of the process while I am actively engaged in the process. I already possess a master's degree, and this process is probably beyond what I had to do for my master's. Going through the process will make you a better teacher since you are actively engaged in classroom interactions and seeking ways to improve your teaching so you can reach most of the students in your class. You are not reading and studying theorists and methods of instruction, you are DOING. I have read several articles about how legislators are trying to stop states from giving incentives to teachers unless they can measure student improvement. Why do we continue to allow society to not recognize what we do and our worth. It seems to me that when something good is happening, someone always will find a way not to compensate teachers for what they do every day. Do doctor's go through this? Do lawyers? How about politicians? I do believe the process should be available to experienced teachers like it is right now, but please, don't stop us from loving what we do, and don't take away what little we already get for preparing the future leaders of our nation.

I was one of those teachers who did not pass. I am also one of those teachers that is considered a non-traditional teacher, but am loved by my students and looked at by my administrators as being most important in the mix of teachers, because I believe and get the students to believe, that they are all successful in my classroom. I also believe that NBPTS does identify good teachers, but also fail to identify good teachers. I am one of them. When I first went for this certification, an administrator in the district announced my participation at a district meeting, without my approval. Ouch. Anyways, I am now looked at, in my district, as the teacher who failed NBPTS. It is interesting that they have a difficult time, getting teachers to go through the process.

P.S. I asked NBPTS to look at my results, as I have concerns about the scorers and their scoring process. I find it really interesting, after the big BOTA study (to which I might add that I can not get the summaries, even though I requested them four times on the web link) that they are now using Pearson to do the grading.

My thoughts.


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Recent Comments

  • noel: I was one of those teachers who did not pass. read more
  • Laura/ NB Candidate: I think it's very frustrating to read articles and comments read more
  • Karina /teacher: I would like to know what has been the highest read more
  • John, new NBCT: I went through the process of certification last year and read more
  • EPollack: I am the parent of a teacher in an urban read more




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