Should I Go for My National Board Certification?
Passionate teachers are always looking for new ways to improve their skills. From district-wide professional development to collaborating with the teacher across the hall, there are many ways you can become a more effective educator in and outside of the classroom.
Since the late 1980s, one of the most popular ways for teachers to both build their skills and advance their careers is to earn national board certification. Administered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), more than 118,000 teachers have gained this distinguished designation. But what is it, and more importantly, is it worth it? In this article, we'll cover those and other relevant questions. And even if you decide that national board certification isn’t for you, we’ll explore valuable alternatives.
What is National Board Certification?
National board certification indicates that a teacher has completed a four-part assessment process:
- Content Knowledge Test
- Differentiation in Instruction Portfolio Entry
- Teaching Practice and Learning Environment Portfolio Entry
- Effective and Reflection Practitioner Portfolio Entry
As of January 2018, each component costs $475 to attempt. In addition to the $75 registration fee, the cost to earn your national board certification is $2,000. However, NBPTS does offer fee waivers. Also, your school or district may pay a portion of the fee if you are successful in gaining certification. Once you start the certification process, you have three years to complete it.
When reviewing submitted materials, NBPTS uses a detailed rubric to evaluate your work. The portfolio entries, media-based, allowed evaluators to gain an insider's view into your classroom, instructional methods, and assessment strategies.
Once you earn national board certification, it is valid for five years. After that, you must undergo a renewal process. The fee for renewal is $1,250.
Let’s sum up: national board certification is a ‘seal of approval’ bestowed on teachers who successfully implement NBPTS’ recommendations in their classrooms.
What Benefits Does Certification Convey?
Besides a piece of paper? Depending on your state, district, or school, you could expect two significant benefits:
- An automatic salary increase.
- The opportunity for promotion (or another advancement) within your school or district.
Most teachers who earn their national board certification certainly enjoy a higher salary and more respect at their schools. However, don't forget that national board certification requires teachers to learn and apply a research-backed teaching methodology. Simply put, students taught by national board certified teachers have better outcomes than students whose teachers are not national board certified.
Are There Downsides?
It depends. Let’s look at a few reasons why even the most enthusiastic teachers may decide to skip national board certification:
- Certification requires a large time commitment, something many teachers cannot juggle in addition to their personal and professional obligations.
- Not every state recognizes national board certification.
- Certification is just too expensive.
So, yes, there are some downsides, but before you go thinking you’re out of luck…
There Are Alternatives
So you’ve researched everything there is to know NBPTS and are excited about taking your teaching to the next level. However, there’s a problem. Maybe you don’t have the $2,000 to complete the program. Maybe your students’ parents don't want their children to appear in the portfolio videos you have to send to NBPTS. Simply put, you feel stuck.
No fear! There are ways you can still improve your teaching skills. They may not come with a fancy certificate or a pay raise, but your students will benefit.
Advanced Placement Certification
At the high school level, Advanced Placement (AP) teachers undergo specialized training provided by the College Board. These sessions, usually lasting one week in the summer, train teachers on the latest AP teaching methods in a particular subject. In the end, teachers become certified to teach that AP course. Even if you teach only standard-level courses, here are a few ways taking an AP certification course can help you improve your teaching:
- New ideas for classroom activities.
- New organizational methods for you and your students
- Your certification is valid for five years, meaning that if that dream AP job opens in the near few years, you'll be ready to apply!
What if you don’t teach high school or AP doesn't interest you? Well, you still have one important alternative remaining.
Teacher conferences provide teachers at all grade levels multiple ways to improve their skills and advance their careers. For example, the Association for Middle-Level Education holds workshops throughout the year to give teachers around the country a chance to network and learn key skills that make them better educators. Your school/district may pay for you to attend a conference, so check with your principal before signing up for a conference or making travel arrangements.
Earning your national board certification is a respectable goal, but it isn’t for everyone. There are many paths to both advance your career and become a more effective teacher. I encourage you to explore multiple options before committing to one or more. No matter what you decide, if you do your research beforehand, your efforts will have a positive impact on your classroom instruction.