Wednesday, May 16, 2007

National Board Certification

We had a presentation about this after school today. Sounds like it could be really powerful professional development, but it takes a lot of time to complete. If you've gone through the certification process, I'd love to hear your impressions. What is the process like? Is it worth it? What did you gain from it?


Darren said...

Unless they've changed it, National Board Certification never once looks at student achievement. It's all about the *teacher* and his/her ability to jump through hoops and agree with fuzzy education principles.

I'm much more inclined to accept the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence "master teacher" program, but California doesn't accept it yet.

Anonymous said...

I taught with a National Board Certified teacher earlier this year. I was totally prepared to be wowed and blown away by his skills and techniques. Instead, he was such a poor teacher that I found myself with my little experience offering him helpful tips. Students literally left the school because they couldn't get out of his class. This is just one anecdote, but my impression so far is that the program doesn't do much in the way of actually looking at a person's teaching ability and that it's much more book work and writing.

Dan Wekselgreene said...

Hmm.. that's too bad. What sounded good to me was that all teachers are required to periodically videotape their lessons. These tapes are brought to a meeting of other teachers in the same discipline, and each participant is asked to watch for one particular component/standard of teaching in the video. The video is shown, all teachers take notes, and then there is discussion. It seems to me that viewing your own actual practice under a microscope, and then going through the same process watching several other teachers, could really help bring some issues to the surface.

I haven't been impressed by any professional development I have been a part of so far, so I wouldn't be surprised if the hype is just that.

Any positive experiences out there?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan. Your blog is great. Our charter school's founding principal, Charlie, was a 30-year teacher and did the National Board Certification. He was/is an incredible teacher. He enjoyed the process, which he said was a lot of work but essentially "coerced reflection" that was useful.

I think Charlie would agree with Darren that NBC does NOT mean a teacher is "excellent" -- i.e., does not weed people out -- but the process itself may help good teacher become even better.

TurbineGuy said...

The National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (Calder Center) recently did two studies on the effects of National Board Certification.

Basically, National Board Certification reduces teacher effectiveness.

There are two studies on teachers from Florida and North Carolina.

"In North Carolina, Clottfelter, Ladd and Vigdor find that National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) are more effective than the average teacher in the elementary grades prior to going through the certification process, but their advantage over other teachers does not significantly change during and after the certification process. These results suggest that the NBPTS process identifies superior teachers in North Carolina, but the process itself does not enhance teacher quality. The analysis for North Carolina is limited to the elementary grades."

"Using the Stanford-9 exam as a measure of student performance, they find that NBCTs in Florida are more effective than the average teacher in middle and high school math prior to going through the certification process, but future NBCTs are statistically no more effective in teaching elementary math or reading at any level. For neither Florida exam is there consistent evidence that the certification process itself makes teachers more effective, and in many instances NBCTs appear to be less effective in raising test scores during and after going through the certification process compared to the period before they applied."

Anonymous said...

I went through the NBC for English and found it to be the best educational development I've ever had. In response to darren - it DOES evaluate student achievement. I had to prove that my students showed progress in their reading and writing skills. Unlike many workshops, the National Certification process focuses on the teacher's actual classroom. I think the biggest misconception is that it is just a bunch of hoops a teacher must jump through. Do not judge something you have not tried.

Anonymous said...


I'm so sorry that Darren was the first one to post because I think he is confusing the NBCT process with something else. I am currently a NBCT candidate, and the process is entirely student-outcome based. Every entry MUST show impact on student learning, from parental/community involvement, individual student "case studies" (for lack of a better term), to whole class and small group instruction. It is the most amazing self-directed professional development opportunity around. I have been teaching for 17 years, and I have never been more attentive and on top of my students' learning and my own self- reflection in as many years. It is not about hoop-jumping; it is truly about how you are able to impact student learning in your classroom and the community. I will be a better teacher for this process whether I certify or not. If you have the ability to commit time and are up for the most incredible challenge, GO FOR IT!! Best of luck!
Kim M.

Anonymous said...

I also think it was a great process. Yes, it is a lot of work but isn't that true of any certification that comes with any sort of title. I felt that it was in tune with getting a Specialist's Degree. Not quite a Master's, but more than what you've got now. I think it is possible that a bad teacher could go through the program and still be a bad teacher, but I found it educational, reflective and worth the effort.

Anonymous said...

I was very disappointed in the National Board Certification process. There is no feedback. I spent a great deal of my own money and tried to succeed based on support from teachers from three states who were certified. It did not happen. I wonder where all my money went. Surely the cardboard box with the CD that I got for the initial $2500 was not so costly.

Diver Daisy said...

I am currently finishing this process (my due date is the 30th of March and I will make it). (sigh) I have been teaching 11 years.

It is a lot of paperwork. It is extremely long and drawn out. I have found some of the questions extremely repetitious. I am not such a rule conformer but that is what my coach helps me with (the things like "this many pages, use this font, put the papers in this order, etc) but to me that IS a bunch of hoop jumping.

I would personally rather them come to see me in action and THEN write about it but oh well.

Anyway, there are good things about it. While it is long, I didn't find it HARD. It was quite doable and fit easily into what I do in the classroom. I am already a consistent and constant reflectioner on my practice so that part was extremely easy. Doing this was very similar to my undergrad experience (I went to Maryville University in St. Louis)

I have questioned myself as to why I am doing it many times. And I am fairly positive that if I don't get it this first time around, I won't try again. I have already decided I AM a good teacher no matter what they say after reviewing my submission.

The most positive thing I see from it is that if I have to change states and teach, it will ease that burden.

Would I suggest it to others? Yes, if they are looking for a challenge. That's probably why I did it the most. To see if I could.

S. Leigh Nataro said...

Where does the $2500 go? The portfolio entries (videos, samples of student work, documented accomplishments) are scored by teachers over the summer. They don't do it for free and it takes alot of time to score one entry. Watching a 10 - 15 minute video and reading 10 - 12 pages for the entry is not quick.

If you think you want to see what it is like before you try it, you can become a scorer. You must score in your area of teaching and you are trained in how to score one specific entry. You are calibrated to understand how the holistic scoring works (ie. this is what a 3 looks like, this is what a 4 looks like) and if you don't calibrate well, you are asked to leave.

Overall, I was very satisfied with the national board certification process and feel it is a more valid indicator of successful teaching than a classroom visit by a principal who taught history 20 years ago.

I have begun a blog for national board certification. It is at

Come visit and I'll answer your questions.

angela said...

If I am honest, I would not go through the process again. Secondary mathematics is my area. Although it does force teachers to be reflective and produce evidence to verify student achievement, the work/benefit was not worth the effort/cost for me. I was already an effective reflective teacher and found the fact that you receive absolutely NO FEEDBACK on entries extremely frustrating. The due dates are in the middle of the school year and I found the video taping distracting to the learning environment since I had large class sizes (36-39 in each class). I was thrilled to begin the process and extremely disappointed in the end. How can I grow if I am not given feedback about the entries? Some would say I should just be proud I passed, but that was not my only goal. I can say I am a board certified teacher, but have to be honest with you and admit I wish I had not taken on the process as a professional development opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Having just completed my certification (and read through the above comments) here are my impressions:

First and foremost, I would caution against writing off the value of certification on the basis of your observations of a handful of individuals who hold it. As with any other credential, the certification is just that... a piece of paper that certifies that you have successfully made it through a process. I have met individuals with advanced degrees, diplomas from Ivy League schools, specialty certificates, X number of years teaching, and a variety of awards. In the end, while ideally the process of obtaining these materials "weeds out" those who are less qualified/skilled, those who make it through will always be dispersed across a range, including those who make the minimum standards and just squeak by.

My point is that above all else, judge the individual. I know an MIT educated engineer who was excellent at academic work, but whose practical application of that work needed a lot of help. That does not necessarily reflect on graduate degrees or MIT as a school.

That said, I view the certification as a tool. Whether it was worth the effort is largely a matter of perspective. As a tool for professional development, was it worth it? Definitely no.

This process did nothing to improve my abilities as a teacher, gave me no new techniques, and gave me very little productive criticism. As a previous poster said, it simply measures your patience, diligence, and ability to jump through hoops. Your work is judged on the basis of seemingly arbitrary standards. Depending on your existing philosophies of education, you may disagree with their assessments on a fundamental level. Unfortunately, there is no way to argue or justify what you have done. You are expected to simply adopt their viewpoints and produce work that conforms. This is where patience comes in.

I simply viewed it as a challenge -- "Can I produce a lesson that utilizes this style of teaching?" It turns out that I could, but the effectiveness of the resulting lesson plan was not at a level that would justify my utilizing it in a classroom ever again. As we all know, there is no single universal teaching style that is equally effective for every teacher in every classroom in every context. This simply did not work for me in my classroom. Apparently it works for others -- more power to them. I don't necessarily judge the methodology of the Nat'l Board Cert; it just doesn't happen to be very applicable for me. For me the process was a means to an end.

What was that end then? Again, the certification is a tool. That tool has several uses that may or may not apply to you.

For me, it led to a slight salary bump, which somewhat justifies the expense. Depending on the state you work in, you might also receive additional money from that state.

As stated earlier, a credential is just a credential, but when placed on a resume there are still administrators that give it some weight. Having it there might not help, but it certainly couldn't hurt to bolster your paper creds.

Lastly, and most importantly (for me), I have a military spouse. We get moved fairly often. This certification allows me to teach in many different states without having to continually re-up my license.

I would hope that people would be intelligent enough to a) not ascribe an inordinate amount of value to a piece of paper beyond what it realistically represents, b) not judge the entire certification on the basis of their contact with a few individuals who hold it, c) not waste their money on the credential if investigation reveals that the benefits to them are minimal, d) not buy into the philosophy of the certification wholeheartedly as the be-all-end-all of teaching, e) not let the negativity of others discourage you if you do decide that the cert is right for you. Hope that helps anyone who stumbles upon this post.