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[Professional Development] Teachers’ Guide to National Board Certification

Thursday, April 27, 2017 -- Scott Sterling

The window to identify yourself as a candidate for National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification is upon us once again. For more than 25 years, being Board-certified has been an aspiration of many educators, with more than 110,000 having accomplished the task.

The process was recently modified to be less of a burden for teachers both financially (the cost was decreased to $1,900) and in terms of time commitment (teachers can now take three years to complete the requirements instead of just one). But make no mistake; National Board certification remains the most rigorous professional development challenge many teachers will encounter in their careers.

The certification process is made up of four components: an online assessment of subject area knowledge, and three separate sections of a portfolio that includes video and written reflection on your teaching practices. A common estimate of the total time invested by teachers who have accomplished certification is somewhere between 200-300 hours, including testing and taking video of lessons.

Although the value of certification is widely recognized, National Board cost reimbursements and salary bonuses were some of the first education budget items many states cut when the 2008 economic recession hit. However, there are still quite a few ways to make your certification pay off, including district and Title I grants as well as crowdfunding campaigns to cover costs, and salary incentives at the district level. For details on what your state supports, click here.

If you are considering enrolling in the certification process or have already done so, here are three tips for success:

Be realistic

Even though the time commitment has been stretched out (pity the teachers who had only one year to get everything done), Board certification is still a considerable time investment; expect to dedicate at least a few hours per week on average. Think of it as taking on some part-time work on the side. If your current schedule doesn’t allow for a side job, consider waiting.

Establish a network

Certification can be a stressful, lonely process without a support system. Reach out to other teachers in your district or area who are also pursuing certification or have already accomplished it for tips and encouragement. Plus, it’s always helpful to have someone who’s been there to vent to when you’re struggling with that latest reflection piece or something doesn’t save correctly.

Lay the groundwork early

You may have three years to complete your certification, but certain things need to be in place before you begin, so do your best to avoid procrastination. Make sure you’ve collected release forms from your students so they can appear in videos and have their work used in your portfolio. It’s also important to come up with a method to keep your portfolio materials organized—whether that’s a OneNote, Google doc, or good old-fashioned accordion file. Finally, if you are lucky enough to have your costs covered by your state, district, or a scholarship, those forms need to be completed in advance.

Looking for tips to improve your teaching practice without taking on the commitment of National Board certification? Check out these strategies for Evaluating Your Own Performance as an Educator!