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!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 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!

    • 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!!

  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….


  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 ( 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! :-)

  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 😉 )

    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!

  7. Leslie says:

    I received my retake scores last night and I failed–both. What a hateful, shameful and time-sucking exercise in futility. One score went down by over 280% (score dropped from 2.85 to a dismal 1.0). I only needed 5 more points to pass. If I were to lay both this year’s and last year’s entries side-by-side I would see very little difference in the effort, quality and response to the prompt. I would also see that the second go-around had much more concise language, many more direct and specific examples of best teaching practices and an even stronger manner in communicating my instructional strategies and practices as well as student responses and feedback. Yet, the scores dropped markedly. I had 3 colleagues (one a district board trainer, and 2 principals, who incidentally did not pass the first or second time around) read my entries with a fine-tooth comb. Adjustments were made and all gave the “good to go” seal of approval. Long story short (I’ll skip over all the stages of grief, including my bout with anger) and cut to the chase. The certification process is an expensive, arduous, convoluted, hoop-jumping event worthy of no one’s time, energy or possible “pat on the back.” Some of the most uninspired, marginal teachers I’ve met passed their boards, some of the best failed. The process did not, as some tout, provide me with a “wonderful opportunity to grow as a teacher.” Instead, lack of worthwhile feedback, exemplars, straight-forward directions and in the end worthiness, provided no growth for me. And yes, I tried to “learn” from this, I put my heart into it and did try to make them years of growth and change. Instead I spent 2 years stewing over how to cut a 7 word sentence down to 3 words (yes, the word limitation is understandable but pure drudgery), when I should have been staying energized and excited about teaching and developing as a truly worthy educator. Final words of advice: the National Board Certification process, in its current iteration, is not satisfying a national need to truly honor exemplary teachers. Sadly, I believe it needs a major overhaul in providing teachers with a meaningful way to communicate their best practices. And no, insisting candidates take 3 years instead of 1 is surely not the answer to this issue. If I had to do it again, I would not partake in this all-consuming process. I would instead urge all those contemplating getting certified, those who did not pass, and even those who did, to instead: attend or present at professional development workshops and trainings; read trade books and journals; pick the brains of teachers you respect and admire; allow your brain to be picked; join committees; and take active leadership roles in truly supporting teacher growth and fidelity in best practices. Help all of us step up to 21st century teaching challenges and rewards by being present in your classrooms, buildings, districts and communities–not holed up in front of a computer entering endless artifacts, commentaries and unspecified reflections.

    • Lisa says:

      Thank you for your post. I too, just failed my retake for National Boards. (I only improved by 4 points on two entries!) So much of what you said is exactly how I feel. I am still debating trying one more time but it is such a financial burden as the state I teach in no longer pays for NB. I was search for new, updated information when I found this post. I would love to hear from someone who passed this year (2014) from the people I have talked to the NB process has changed and seems to be harder to obtain. Perhaps this is because my state has the highest percent of NB certified teachers… well, duh, we are ranked 47th in teacher pay! In a time when appreciation for teachers is lacking it would be nice to know that hard work, effort, and the pursuit of NBPTS would be reachable goal for those who work for it. Unfortunately I know more excellent teachers who have failed (in the last 2 years) than passed.

  8. Sam says:

    I earned the National Board Certification in science back in 2006. I did it because…..not sure why. I guess I was felt as though I was not busy enough while finishing up my masters program with a three year old and a newborn baby (written with sarcasm). Nevertheless, I too did not pass the first time around. I did not have a real understanding of what portfolio three was asking me to do. I remember I had to provide an entry that showcased a “full embodied lesson of a ‘whole-class’ discussion.” Do you know what that means? Neither did I…. and neither did any person I talked to at NBPTS. All I would get is a person reading back to me the rubric saying: You need to provide clear, concise and consistent evidence of a whole-class discussion. Whatever the case, I now know that a ‘whole-class’ discussion in science is a fancy way of saying a Socratic Seminar in an English class. Believe it or not, I actually punted on this idea the second time around and……I guess I was right back then because I passed the second time. Also, the computer test I took for component four was absolutely ridiculous. The essay questions I was asked to respond to would have challenged a phD candidate in science. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to pass the computer test. Bottom line, thinking back on that experience, I am not sure if I would do it again from scratch. Keep in mind that I did learn a TON from the process, more than my masters program by far, and you will too. Also, be prepared for the time commitment, which is HUGE! The feed back will be non-existant. The process will be frustrating and you will have to be perfect on everything……and I mean everything, even down to the font size and margin sets on your entries, or they may not get scored.
    On a similar note, I am up for renewal this year. Currently, as I sit at the computer typing, I will be uploading my renewal digital e-portfolio to the NBPTS website in minutes, as it is due tomorrow. I figured that since I had to jump through all the hoops and circus acts to earn it the second time around, there was no way I was going to have to do it again from scratch if I were to allow my ten year status to expire without renewal. Keep in mind that the renewal process is less demanding by far, however, just as vague on directions, just as frustrating to get anyone to tell you anything about what they mean for an entry and expensive…..$1250. Nevertheless, I hope I get renewed.
    p.s. When I did get the National Board Certification back in 2006, I did not even bother to go to the recognition ceremony they had at the state capitol. Nor did I even bother to tell people. I was so put off by the experience I just wanted to close that chapter in my life. To this day, I am still a ‘closet’ NBPTS teacher at my school. But then again, I am the type of person that never felt the need to let everyone around me know my personal business or personal accomplishments. Besides, being a NBPTS certified teacher does not make me any better of a person than many of the other great teachers I currently work with who are not certified themselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>