Four Tips (and a Bonus!) for Improving Your National Board Scores
Sunday, December 9, 2018 by Joetta M. Schneider, NBCT

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

If the percentage of candidates who achieve National Board Certification for Teachers the first time they attempt their components is still 30-40% (rumored in the old system) then chances are you need to retake a component or two. Now you are faced with trying to decide how to improve your National Board scores.

Improve Your Evidence

Some of the candidates I’ve spoken with are quoting feedback that asks if their evidence could be more clear, more consistent, or more convincing. So let’s talk about that.

First of all, what qualifies as evidence? For C2,  you are making claims about your ability to teach a sequence of instruction—and what I am seeing is that candidates can be vague.  What do I mean by that, you ask? Exactly. An example would be much more clear to you. And examples about how you know a student needs more instruction would be more clear than if you said something like, “I could tell that Student A needed more explanation.” Maybe you could say, “As I helped Student A determine the name and formula for a chemical compound, I could tell that he was confusing ionic and covalent compounds.” The second statement is more clear than the first statement as evidence that I am monitoring and managing student learning.

Secondly, you are submitting student work as evidence. Rather than expect the assessor to examine the evidence and come to the same conclusions you do, can you say something like, “When I look at R’s diagram of the water cycle in Work Sample #1, I see that he has written ‘condensation’ in the area of the ocean. I can see that he is confusing accumulation with condensation.” This is more clear about what evidence I am claiming.  It’s also important that assessors can see your feedback to students on the assignments you submit. Or you can include the rubric where you’ve written feedback.

With regard to consistency, we cannot always be pointing to the same evidence to support every prompt that is asked of us. Consistency will be shown in more than one piece of evidence that points to the same skill. Unfortunately it seemed like one piece of evidence was all I had to work with twelve years ago when I first certified. I achieved because of some higher scores on other entries, but in one of my videos, my answer to almost every prompt pointed to the one pitiful piece of evidence I could pick out. I did the best I could with that video. The other video was stronger. (Is there a text abbrieviation for Laughing At Myself? LAM?)

My own rule of thumb, and not one I’ve seen anywhere, is to try to show every criteria on a prompt three times. So if the evidence I’m asked for is that I have used correct science pedagogy to teach a major concept in science, I will try to find three ways I used appropriate and current science pedagogy and point those out. This is what I’m equating with consistency.

For example, “I often use the 5E model to plan lessons so I began the activity by engaging students in making observations of rock samples.” …then later in the paragraph or paper as appropriate… “I used an engineering design  activity in which students...”  and even later in the paper… “Because lab safety is very important in science class, I...”

These examples will be even more obvious and easy for an assessor to find if I “pull my points” as we are taught to do in debate class. Not only giving those three examples, but prefacing each example with information that these are my examples of appropriate science pedagogy.  So it would look like this:

My choices of science pedagogy include use of the 5E instructional model. For example, I began the activity by engaging students in making observations of rock samples… later in the paper I would write… another way I used appropriate science pedagogy was through the use of the science engineering practice of redesigning solutions to a problem.” … later… “One pedagogical practice I always include is going over lab safety rules that specifically pertain to the lab we are doing.”

Lastly, your evidence needs to be convincing. Several of the Level 4 rubrics contrast the word convincing with the word “contrived.” Does what you are using for evidence seem natural or did you have to work to make it fit? Is it weak evidence? Here’s an example from C3:  “In the video you can tell students understand the concept of covalent bonding because they have put the models together correctly.”  A stronger piece of evidence than students who can follow instructions putting models together might be:  “In the video at minute 3:42, you can hear the girl in the red shirt say to her partner, ‘We need to attach two hydrogen atoms to the oxygen atom because the oxygen atom has two unpaired electrons.” Many of the Level 4 rubrics for C3 specifically ask for student learning conversations as evidence. There are many ways to design your instruction to provide for student learning conversations. Here’s another resource from Cult of Pedagogy.

Revisiting the Four Tips

So to recap the thoughts in this post: 1) use specific examples as evidence, 2) point to specific answers or writing on the students’ papers as evidence, 3) pull your points by using question stems from the prompt to mark the evidence for the assessors, 4) realize that you may need to re-write or re-record video until you get material that will demonstrate your accomplished teaching.  If you have time to get better evidence, take it.

There is one more thought I have about evidence and I will need your help to double check the instructions. I think you can use text boxes or post-its, etc. to mark the places on the student work that you want the assessor to note. Please let me know if there is something that says you can’t do that anymore, but in the olden days, you could. So I would put a sticky arrow next to the results of an assessment (for example, in C4) that showed an increase in student test scores.

A cool part of the National Board process is that it’s a growth process. I hope you will enjoy seeing yourself grow in your ability to provide evidence to the NBPTS, and that there will be even more of an a-ha moment as you compare your work with the Level 4 Rubric for your content area.  

The Bonus Material

If you go to the Resources pages on this website, I’ve uploaded a chart I made for a candidate in the online cohort from the AYA Math Level 4 rubric. Use this as an example of what you can do with your own rubric from your nbpts instructions.

Hope this helps.

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