Is Getting National Board Certified Really Worth It?

My seventh year of teaching I decided to take the plunge and work towards getting National Board certified. I filled out the application and was accepted for a scholarship from the state of Oklahoma to pay the $3000 fee. Two of my friends, in different buildings, were going to go through the process as well. I attended the two workshops the state provided and I went to almost all of the regional meetings. The whole time, I thought “How can I not pass this? Just answer the questions they are asking. I’ve got this! Right?”

I spent hours searching for amazing lessons. I made great hands-on manipulatives. I typed and I typed and I typed. I read the instructions a million times. I checked over the criteria provided a zillion times. I had others read my entries. All the while, still thinking, “How can I not pass this?” The thing I did not prepare for were the tests on the computer. I thought, “I’m a math teacher. I’ve taught 9th grade Algebra and a Pre-AP Geometry class. I aced my calculus classes in college. How can I not pass some middle school math tests?” Well, I only passed one of those computer tests. Apparently I should have looked at the types of things they were going to ask me, not to mention what they were looking for in the answers. I thought to myself at the time, “That’s ok. The computer tests aren’t worth as much, so as long as I’ve aced the portfolio entries, I’ve still got this in the bag. Right?”

Everyone told us that the day you pack that box, it is one of the most nerve racking thing you’ve ever done. They warn you of invalidated entries if you don’t have things perfect. I also had people tell me that they cried when they shipped off the box. Seriously? Cry? Obviously extremely emotional people. Well, the day came. My husband and kids came with me. Guess what…..I cried. It seriously felt like handing a beloved “pet” to some stranger, forever. It was a long year preparing those entries. Now all I had to do was sit and wait for eight months to see if I passed.

The day came to get scores, I finally accessed the site about two minutes before the bell rang for my first hour class. Yep, you guessed it….I failed. By a lot. I wasn’t one of those that failed it by a couple of points. No, I passed two of the ten parts. I cried, I sucked it up, and I signed up for another year.

With my tail between my legs, I went to the workshop the state provided for the losers. I decided I would try to pass the three portfolio entries that I failed rather than the computer tests. The entries were worth more points. I worked and I worked on those entries. I had the head “math guru” of my husband’s high school read my entries, I had a guy who had scored the math portfolio entries for several years read them. If they approved of them, how could I not pass this time? I sent them off and I waited the eight months. November came. My husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was scheduled for brain surgery the following Friday. The same Friday scores were suppose to come out. The morning of his surgery, I brought my computer so that I could see that beautiful PASSING score. Yep, you guessed it, I failed again. In fact on one of the entries, my score went down.

Because of my husband’s condition, the horrible anxiety the process gives you, the amount of time I had already spent on it, I decided not to try the final time. Do I regret going through the process? Absolutely not!!! I learned so much that it made it all worth it. The only thing I believe is extremely flawed about National Board……that they give you absolutely no feedback on what you did wrong. As educators, we are taught to always give feedback to our students. Why try again when I obviously didn’t understand what they wanted. My interpretation of the assignment was apparently wrong. I also never understood that if it is my interpretation of the questions and I did everything that was asked, how can you fail? Have I learned some things since then? Yes. Do I think I might have a chance if I went through the process again? Probably. Will I ever try again? Possibly. Would I encourage others to try? Absolutely!

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7 Responses to Is Getting National Board Certified Really Worth It?

  1. Selina Smith says:

    Wow, you have me scared to death. I’m planning to start the process in the Spring. I’ve talked two of my friends into taking the plunge with me. Did you have to pay back the money? That’s my biggest fear, that I will fail and have to pay back all the money. How is your husband? My daughter had a brain tumor removed in 2006. Worst time of my life. I really enjoyed reading your post!
    Selina Smith recently posted..QR ValentineMy Profile

    • Andrea Kerr says:

      Don’t be scared. Like I said…. the things you learn about your teaching style, the hard work you put into finding even more amazing lessons for your class, and the wonderful people you meet make it all worth it. No, Oklahoma didn’t make me pay it back. At least they never contacted me about it. lol. I can’t say that my husband’s brain tumor was the worst time of my life, because six years before that, my son was born nine weeks early and stayed in the NICU for five weeks. Both of those were horrible experiences, but we had happy endings. Perfect son and a perfect husband. The only set back with my husband was this last August he had a seizure in the middle of the night. They said it was from the scar tissue changing. It was extremely scary, because I’d never seen a grand mal seizure and had never heard of it being like that. He’s on medication to prevent them now, and we’ve had no other problems. I hope your daughter is doing good. It’s amazing how our brains heal. Thank you so much for your comment!!
      Andrea Kerr recently posted..Is Getting National Board Certified Really Worth It?My Profile

  2. Jeannie says:

    Wow – that is super scary , but I’m sure a great experience in learning! I’d love to go through the process for national certification, but it’s way expensive….

    ~jeannie~

  3. This was really interesting to read. I could relate to all of your emotions and frustrations! I did certify in 2006, but I attribute that to the fact that I had 8 mentors AND an online support group. The way that you need to write for NB is very different from the way you would write for a college research paper or something, and kind of counter-intuitive.This week I just created a whole new section of my website for NBCT candidates (http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/free-resources/nbpts). I had some info up there previously, but now I’ve elaborated more on how to write for the NBPTS portfolios, because it’s something I wouldn’t have understood without mentors who helped ME. If you ever decide to try again, let me know, I’ll be happy to help! :-)
    Angela Watson recently posted..Changing routines and procedures mid-yearMy Profile

  4. What a horrible set of circumstances you had going through National Boards. :( That will really effect your outcome. I am so sorry. But I am glad that your son and husband are now doing well again!

    Do you get paid extra in your state when you pass? (we get a 15% raise here in my district, which really really made it worth it ;) )

    ~Stephanie
    Teaching in Room 6

  5. Mrs. K. says:

    Wow. This was a very insightful post, and I’m appreciative of you writing it!

    Even though I’ve done several long term assignments and have subbed for two entire years, I’m actually entering into my second “official” year as a teacher this coming fall (2012). I haven’t done much research over NBCT because I heard that you have to have at least 3 years of experience to even apply. I THOUGHT I wanted to apply…until I read your post. lol. I’m such a perfectionist that I think it would drive me crazy to have such vague prompts and no feedback. I guess I have another couple of years to think about it. Maybe I’ll change my mind. :)

  6. Emily M. says:

    I agree that I wish they gave more feedback on how to improve or what areas you were lacking. I failed on my first attempt as well and re-submitted this spring. It’s such a long wait to find out! I’m glad you feel that you got something out of it, even though you did not certify. I hope I can keep a positive attitude as well if don’t hit 275 this time around!

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