What Should and Should Not Change About National Board Certification?

Most of us who have completed the National Board Certification process agree that is one of the most significant, transformative experiences of our careers.

We would also be the first to point out that the process could be better.

Until this year, the entire process was paper-based, starting and ending with a big, blue and white box.  The process is very long and labor intensive on the candidate, processing staff, and scorers, which is why it is also very expensive—more than board certification for other professions.

So, in true National Board fashion, we’ve [now I’m speaking as a member of its Board of Directors] reflected, listened, and reached out to our colleagues in the field for ideas on how to improve the process. It’s important to note here, what’s NOT changing: The quality of the Standards, nor the control of the process—by teachers, for teachers.

Now, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is looking for volunteers (a whole lot of volunteers) to help field test potential components for a redesigned certification process.

U.S. teachers in PK – 12th grade, from all subject areas, all geographic areas, all backgrounds, Board Certified and not yet Board Certified are invited to participate in this contribution to the advancement of our profession.

Non-NBCTs  For anyone who may be interested in seeking National Board certification in the future, participating in a field test will provide an inside look into the process. It affords a no-cost, no-risk practice run on a component.

NBCTs  NBCTs who want to support candidates as they go through the process can participate in one or more field tests to have first-hand experience with the new process. Participation in a field test provides a professional learning opportunity which could be used to document how teachers are members of learning communities.

The National Board will begin field testing three potential components of the revised certification process on the following tentative schedule:

Content Knowledge—this component has two parts

Teaching Practice and Learning Environment—involves creating a video and will be field tested Spring 2015

Effective and Reflective Practitioner—is a new written component that will be field tested Spring 2016

Participants may volunteer to field test one or all three components. Preference in selection will be given to participants who volunteer for all three components.

There is no cost to participating in the field tests, but there is also no compensation for participating.

Scores on the field test components are for research purposes only and will not be provided to the participants or be counted toward National Board Certification.

Participating in field testing will not preclude you from participating in the revised assessment process.

More information is available on the website.

Whether you want to volunteer or not (and if you can’t, please pass the word), I’d like to hear your response to my opening question: What do you think should or should not change about the National Board Certification process?

Related categories:
  • JohnVisel

    Hopes for new National Board Assessment


    What are the hopes for the new National Board assessment of teachers?  Is there something that they’re not getting from the current assessment?

    I was reading a few abstracts today, and one really stuck with me.  One article leveled a charge that the National Board Certification process does not necessarily develop phenomenal teachers; it labels them.   I think it’s a little of both.


    National boards are plenty rigorous.  Of the 20 or so people in my cohort, I am unaware of anyone who sailed through without having his boat seriously rocked.  So I tend to disagree with the article (that it doesn’t make great teachers better).   If the NBC process were going to change, it might think about the teacher development piece over the 10 years of the certificate, though.  I don’t think every year should be as stressful as a National Board certification year, but perhaps at least survey the teachers who achieve to see how they perceive it has affected their teaching that year.

    • ReneeMoore

      Reinvigoration and Renewal

      Thanks for your observations, John.

      Overwhelmingly, educators (inclduing Library/Media specialists, counselors) who have completed NB Certification testify that it is the most powerful professional development opportunity of their careers.  However, to a certain extent the “labeling” point is valid. One earns NBC by demonstrating, analyzing, and explaining what we actually do in our own classrooms with real students. Not just what we know in our heads, learned from our preparations, and hope we can do one day.  It is a demonstration of highly accomplished teaching based on the standards developed by and evaluated by our peers.

      Board Certified teachers who renew their certifications go through a different process than those who initially certify (or those who let their certification lapse and have to re-certify).  One question is whether and how Board Certification could/should be the professional goal of all teachers, or at least of the vast majority as in other professions. This can’t happen overnight, or under current conditions, But what would it take, and what would it mean to education in this country, if teaching professionals were treated like those in other highly respected fields?

  • CherylSuliteanu

    profoundly influential experience

    Earning the title NBCT (or label, as some may say) was a profoundly important process in my teaching career.  I learned how to see my strengths, my areas of need, and how to capitalize on one to support the other. I also learned how to adjust my lense when working with the community, specifically Entry 4, to be more student-focused. 

    The family and community engagement factor of our roles as educators is a growing area of focus for the education community, especially now with the release of the new Parent and Community Engagement Framework by the U.S. Department of Education with the Institute for Educational Leadership, and the new U.S. DoE Family and Community Engagement website.

    Entry 4 was where I thought I was a master, and would blaze a trail with it. Guess what? I did not connect my activities with student achievement. (Entry 4 would have sunk me, if I had not done so well in other Entries.)  When I look back on what I wrote twelve years ago, I realize the wake up call I got from NBPTS was an absolute career-changer.

    I subsequently learned that all the things I thought I was doing well were not measurably impacting student achievement.  I renewed my Certification, and each and every item I submitted clearly demonstrated how much I’ve learned to engage with families and our community in ways that positively, measurably, and meaningfully impact student achievement.

    This is a missing piece for far too many teachers, and I would like to see the other entries include reference to engaging families in the learning process of their children.  How do teachers support families’ needs in order to support student learning? What aspect of content area instruction includes a family engagement component? How do teachers demonstrate cross cultural competency within all entries of the NB process?

    • ReneeMoore

      More on family and community engagement


      This is a powerful observation and a great suggestion. I agree with your emphasis on family and cultural engagement. These elements are embedded throughout the standards themselves,which makes sense because those are written by teams of teachers in those content areas.