Teachers have enough to do without adding in a bid for National Board Certification, so why would they try? Each state has a different set of incentives and provides different types of support, but here are some reasons teachers would want to embark on this process:
If you ask any teacher who has achieved National Board Certification, he or she will tell you that the process provided an opportunity to grow as a teacher and a professional. This is because the context of the professional development is in your own classroom. Teachers know that relevant, real-world context is important for student learning, and it’s the same for teacher learning. Even if you understand concepts of student engagement and differentiation, you will grow as you think of new ways to apply these ideas and demonstrate your understanding with evidence. Personally, I knew of a teacher who was the State Teacher of the Year in Elementary Education who did not pass her National Boards the first time. She addressed us and said it was the best professional development she’d ever done. She reapplied that year and made it.
Even teachers who don’t achieve National Board Certification on the first try consider it the best professional development they’ve ever done.
“When the stakes are high, teachers have great motivation to learn.”
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards cites 13 studies over the past fourteen years that demonstrate that students in classrooms with a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) gain one to two months of learning each year.
One NBCT who was interviewed about why a teacher would want to consider National Board Certification said, “I ask my students to rise to the challenge every day. I thought I should challenge myself.” Teachers who wanted to grow in their fields can take various CE credit opportunities or graduate classes. They can achieve a Master’s Degree or Doctorate, or become an administrator. National Board certification provides a significant challenge that results in immediate classroom application. Another NBCT put it this way:
“When I got my doctorate, it said that I’m a good scholar. When I achieved my NBCT, it showed that I am a professional educator, invested in my impact in the classroom.” — Dr. Jenny Santilli, NBCT
Many colleges offer graduate credit toward a Master’s Degree for teachers pursuing National Board Certification. Some of the best opportunities for teachers involve working with a cohort of teachers. West Virginia University recently offered a Master’s Degree Program in Early Childhood Literacy that dovetailed with the National Board Certification process. Programs like these offer great support for teachers, and since teachers generally receive pay raises for advanced degrees, this can be a really winning combination for any teacher wanting to continue his or her education.
Here’s a great chart by the NBPTS that details the kinds of incentives and support teachers can expect in their own states. Some states offer reimbursement or payment of fees; other states offer increased pay or permanent certification credentials. For teachers who plan to move, they can check to see if their new state will accept National Board Certification in lieu of other certification credentials for teachers who are transferring.
It is estimated that only 3-4% of teachers in the United States are National Board certified. It’s a risk for a teacher to make the attempt and not achieve the first time. Only 30-40% of teachers typically achieve the first try. My own advice to teachers pursuing National Board certification is to assume you will have to re-do at least one component. You have up to three years to complete the entire process and then an additional two years to retake any components for higher scores. Your scores are banked and you can just retake sections that were low. Teachers who do not achieve the first year should reach out to NBCTs, who typically enjoy helping other teachers attempting to certify—which is exactly why we created this company, My National Board. (Our tagline is “We’re Geeks Like That!) One statistic is that 80% of teachers working with a cohort will achieve their National Board certification. This is much higher than the average 30-40% achievement rate.
Studies about the connection between teacher leadership and National Board certification by Santo, Hyler, and Monte-Sano in the International Journal of Teacher Leadership, reveal a variety of leadership experiences both before and after achieving National Board certification. The study (published in 2014) also says:
“[The] results are aligned with the results of the NBPTS survey in which more than 90% of NBCTs polled said that their status as an NBCT gave them more credibility in the education profession and 81% agreed that National Board Certification opened new leadership opportunities for them (NBPTS, 2001).”
National Board Certification for teachers is a great way to challenge yourself in your teaching career, and a way to advance your career. The bottom line, though, for an NBCT, is the impact the process will make on the learning of YOUR students in YOUR classroom. If you are already a good teacher, this process will make you better. If there are ways you want to grow, this process will provide them. When you are ready to start the process, we are here to provide resources—we offer email support and coaching via Skype, books and online courses, and workshops. Check out our FREE Resources to learn more.
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