What National Board Certification Means for FL Teachers

A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times highlighted a significant decrease in the number of Florida teachers who are achieving National Board Certification. (In 2015, only seventeen teachers received it statewide.) For me, the line that stood out in the article most was this:

“I guess we found out what the motivation was for National Board certification,” said Senate Education Appropriations Chairman Don Gaetz, adding there are no plans to restore the funding.

Senator Gaetz suggests that teachers have stopped pursuing this rigorous certification process because the monetary incentive from the state of Florida has been removed. Sounds bad, right? How can teachers demand respect for their profession if they are only motivated to pursue the Gold Seal of Teaching for financial gain? Shouldn’t all teachers want to improve their craft for the love of teaching alone?

Like most quotes from politicians, this one was designed to elicit an emotional response. Congratulations, Senator Gaetz. Mission accomplished. I’m guessing you don’t actually know much about National Board Certification or what investment it requires of teachers, so as a NBCT, let me give you some insight.

What National Board Certification is not:
1. It is not a required process. It is not required for employment in the State of Florida (or any other state).

2. It cannot be substituted for State certification. However, in Florida it can be used once as a substitute for the continuing education credits required to renew one’s license.

3. It does not guarantee employment. In and of itself, it does not give a teacher any preferential treatment in the hiring, retention, or promotion process.

4. It is not a requirement for any instructional position. Being “highly qualified” for certain teaching positions can be contingent upon a teacher obtaining ESOL certification, a Reading Endorsement or additional Add-On certificates. National Board certification is not a substitute for those licensing requirements.

5. It does not merit additional pay. My school district and union have successfully negotiated for Board Certified Teachers to earn $1000 for providing mentoring and training during the school year and/or a bonus for working in high needs schools. Mentoring opportunities are not guaranteed and neither is employment in a high needs school. Both of these bonuses are renegotiated every year and can be reduced or eliminated at any time.

6. It is not guaranteed. The national certification pass rate is about 40 percent.

What National Board Certification requires:

1. Money. The cost to apply for National Board certification was recently reduced to $1900, or 3.6% of an average teacher’s pre-tax wages. (It used to cost $2,500.) I suppose it would be fair to say that many teachers could easily afford that cost—if it weren’t for the fact that we are now required to pay 3% of our salary towards our retirement. Additionally, as a candidate, I had to purchase the supplies necessary to produce my portfolio.

2. Time. The certification process requires a two-hour, computer-based assessment on content knowledge. Candidates are also required to submit three portfolio entries (videos, examples of student work, and eight to ten pages of written reflections) that demonstrate mastery of lesson planning and delivery. We also have to reflect on our own teaching effectiveness and suggest improvements for future student learning. I spent an estimated 50 hours outside of the classroom on nights and weekends: meeting with a mentor to discuss my portfolio, reviewing my videotapes, choosing my exemplar video, and revising my reflections. Additionally, the certificate has to be renewed every 10 years.

3. Experience. A candidate must have minimum of 3 years of teaching experience before seeking certification. Multiple studies have reported that 20 percent of teachers leave within their first five years of teaching, making for a very small candidate pool.

What National Board Certification is to me (and others):
1. A measure of our dedication to the profession. It is an acknowledgment that we are deliberate in our teaching and working to promote best practices.

2. Some of the most profound personal and professional development a teacher can experience. I learned more about my teaching during the process than I have from any observation or evaluation.

3. An indication of teacher leadership. These are teachers that can mentor new or struggling teachers, build community relationships within schools, and chair committees and projects. In many schools, they are an untapped resource.

By way of comparison, my husband obtained a Professional Engineer license. It was not a condition of his employment. He asked his company for their support, and they paid for the application and test, the preparation course and books. He attended the classes and took the test on company time. His investment was fairly minimal. A few hours of studying at home and a handful of batteries for his calculator. Holding a PE license is a rare thing in his colleague circle, but his company valued the additional gravitas the license would bring to his work and his clients.

Clearly, teachers do not do what we do for the money. However, I don’t believe that it is unreasonable to pay experts for for their time and effort to pursue licensure that not only elevates the profession but also the teacher as a professional. Instead of deriding those who don’t (or can’t afford to) get certification because of the lack of incentive, how about we applaud those who choose to do so anyway?

Or perhaps a better question is: Why do some members of the Florida Legislature feel teachers who pursue such excellence should not be rewarded?

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  • RayeWood

    I relate to much of what you
    I relate to much of what you say here. I live in Michigan. When I earned certification in 2013, I was one of only FIVE NBCTs on the West Side of Michigan. My state paid for half of the application fee and my district paid some as well. I also got a stipend when I certified but that took me two school years. I didn’t do it for the money–I did it to better myself and how I teach students. Not many people appreciate that since it’s so rare in my area of Michigan. It’s really sad that people tell us we are greedy but when we work this hard, we aren’t given any positive affirmation either.

    • JulieHiltz

      It’s Kind of Like a Catch 22

      The rariety of the number of teachers that obtain certification should help to increase the respect of the certification process in theory. Certification is hard to get so it should be more valuable. What I’ve seen so far is that because so few teachers have the certification there is an assumption that it has less value. “Look at all those teachers that are doing the job without certification! What’s the point?” Yet again, other professions look at this differently. Board Certified Physicians and Professional Engineers earn higher salaries than their peers and are automatically assumed to have a higher level of knowledge about their practice. 

  • Faye Cook

    Julie, You spoke for many NBCTSu

    Julie put together the composite thoughts of many NBCTs.  We work hard every day for our students.  Teaching requires a high level of education, on-going professional development, and most of all a strong commitment to our students.  That said, we should be expected appropriate compensation for the work we do and for the growth that comes with advanced certifications.  

     

    • JulieHiltz

      Faye,

      Faye,

      I learned that from you. 🙂

      In the beginning I achieved certification because I wanted to prove something to myself. Over time I have come to understand that it is OK to do things to for yourself that benefit your students and district AND expect to be appreciated and rewarded for your work. 

  • Jessica

    Art

    I agree with this article 100%. 

    It takes stamina, time, effort, courage, support from your family and school community to even get into the process. I have calculated to work around 400 extra hours in the first try  in a time period less than 10 months. In addition to changes in curriculum, standards , , educational policies and transitioning from paper to electronic NBCT portfolios within the last 3 years. I agree with this article! 

     

  • Jessica

    Art

    I agree with this article 100%. 

    It takes stamina, time, effort, courage, support from your family and school community to even get into the process. I have calculated to work around 400 extra hours in the first try  in a time period less than 10 months. In addition the changes in curriculum, standards , , educational policies and transitioning from paper to electronic NBCT portfolios within the last 3 years increase the difficulty of the process. I congratulate all NBCT that pass and don't because it is an awesome professional development!

     

  • SusyS

    It is about the money

    I disagree with the author that most teachers can afford the fee. Untrue! $1900 is a lot of money, on top of the hours of outside work required to complete the process. Many teachers are working after school jobs and in the summer (or in my case, grant work and any PD that will pay me). We can not afford to spend that much money on a prestigious but useless honor. While this article is specific to FL, many states have required an increase in contribution toward pension, as well as Obama's tax on health and life insurance that went into effect 2 years ago, and our districts passing along higher costs of health care to us. All of this digs into our take-home pay. And I haven't mentioned that most districts have not kept up with cost of living increases, let alone step increases. I'm not sure about FL, but where I live, there are four required levels of teacher certification and with each level, the fee to the state is higher. I just paid $500 to my state for the 'honor' to teach there. For what? This is nothing more than a tax.

    While it is encouraging that National Boards lower the application fee, until it is free, it's still too high. Level the playing field by eliminating the fee and you will see more teachers work toward this goal. 

    • JulieHiltz

      I apologize if I left you

      I apologize if I left you with the impression that I thought all teachers could easily afford the fee. That is not the case at all. However I realize there is a perception if the process was important enough to you as a professional you could find the way to pay for it. I’m sure we could all collect that money somehow over time but why? I wouldn’t go so far to say that certification is useless as it has opened doors for me to mentorship work in my district and professional networking. Those opportunities have personal value to me even if I didn’t bank a check for them. However the cost in fees and personal time are things that are not currently compensated for with most districts/states and that is a shame.

  • Anthony Colucci

    Supplement in Brevard

    Julie,

    Our union and district just agreed to help start paying for the cost of certification/renewal by paying a $260 supplement per year to NBCTs.  I can start the renewal process next year and knowing that I will recoup the cost is a huge factor in renewing! I am a huge advocate for NBCT but don't know if I would have considered renewing without the supplement…it simply would've been a bad economic decision.