Today I read a blog post on edweek.org in support of national certification. I also read the comments at the bottom by readers, and there was one that said the process was too subjective, that this person has witnessed where good teachers did not get certified while bad teachers did. I have read similar comments elsewhere on the internet.
I was one of the 40% who earn national certification on the first try. Was it luck or skill, or maybe a bit of both?
I pursued national board because I am the type of person who is always looking for a challenge, something new to conquer. I want to be the best at what I do, for my own personal satisfaction and, more importantly, for my students’ benefit.
National certification was an intense process that required me to write over 50 pages of explanation and reflection on my teaching that included samples of student work, to submit two 15-minute video clips of my classroom instruction, and to take a 3-hour exam that evaluated my pedagogical knowledge about teaching world language as well as my ability to communicate in Spanish. I had to think a lot about what I teach, why I teach it, and the impact that it has on students. It required me to examine everything I do with a critical eye. I also had to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in my subject area. I am wondering how “bad” teachers are able to bluff their way through all of that. Having experienced the depth of work involved, I can also understand how teachers who do not achieve national certification feel intense disappointment, perhaps even deception about the certification process.
The four entries are assessed by 12 different classroom teachers, all of whom have been trained by NBPTS. The entries are assessed according to rubrics that the candidates have access to from the start. We as teachers are very familiar with this process because we evaluate our own students’ performance using rubrics on a regular basis. The rubrics state that there needs to be clear, consistent, and convincing evidence of the standards in the entries. While a candidate may be an effective teacher, that must come through clearly in the entries for him or her to score well. The scoring process is explained in this NBPTS document: http://www.nbpts.org/userfiles/file/Part1_Interpreting_your_score.pdf
There has been research done to see whether the students of NBCT’s perform better than students of non-NBCT’s, and the results have been mixed. Here are a couple of articles that I read that address the research that is available about National Board Certification. I will warn you that they were written by people associated with National Board.
I recommend that teachers of world languages download the National Board standards for World Languages Other than English in order to evaluate their own classroom practice, whether they choose to pursue national certification or not. I think they are a good reflection of recognized best practices for world languages and for teaching in general. These are the revised 2011 standards for WLOE:
Finally, for those who are considering national certification, I would download all documents available for your subject area from http://www.nbpts.org and read them carefully before applying to be a candidate. There is also documentation of your classroom practice and professional development that you’ll need time to gather, so being aware of those things before starting the process is beneficial. It is estimated that the portfolio requires 200-300 hours of work to be done in one school year. Examine your existing commitments to work and family. Can you devote the time? Secondly, you have to be prepared for the possibility of not getting certification the first time. You get three tries, and about 67% of the candidates who start out earn their certification in the three years. Are you willing to dedicate the extra time and money to re-take certain sections if you do not certify on the first or second round? Finally, the process requires risk taking in that you have to be prepared to accept the results, whatever they may be. If you choose to make the commitment, I highly recommend going through the process with a mentor. In Missouri, the regional professional development centers across the state (RPDC’s) provide mentors to national board candidates. National board also has mentor training available so that NBCT’s are trained to mentor others in an ethical way, which means giving you guidance but not telling you what to write. You can also find support on the internet on various sites:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NBCT_WLOE/ (not very active, but I’ll reply if you post)
Search http://www.teachertube.com for national certification
For me personally, the national board certification process was worth it. It caused me to reflect deeply on the teaching and learning going on in my classroom, more than I had ever done before. It also prepared me for later opportunities in my career, such as my portfolio for ACTFL National Teacher of the Year. I think the decision to pursue national certification is a very personal choice and one that requires thought and planning before making the decision to pursue it. There are schools and states that offer monetary incentives for earning national certification, which is a nice perk, but I do not believe it is sufficient justification for attempting national certification. For me, the choice to attempt national certification was about my personal pursuit of excellence, refining my skills as an educator, and seeking the best for my students.