National Board Certification: The Times They are A-Changin’

by Maren Johnson

A few years ago I decided to pursue National Board Certification.  Then I looked at the process.  No way!  I would never have the time to do that!  My children were very young, I had a full time job, numerous other responsibilities.

I sat on the idea for a year, but then found I was still interested.  However, doing it all in one year was just too much.  So what did I do?  I decided to spread the work over two years by doing Take One the first year, and the rest of the process the next.  Yes, that did break it up a little bit, but I always wished I could have broken it up even more–it was quite an uneven split between one entry one year and three entries plus the assessment center the second year!

My story is not unique–the time burden and financial demands the National Board process places on individuals in a single year can be an obstacle to pursuing National Board Certification.  These obstacles bear no relationship to whether or not a teacher's practice actually meets the National Board standards. 

Now that process is changing! National Board Candidates will now have the option to complete the process over some years, and pay as they go.  The certification fee, payable over time, will be approximately $1900, as compared to the current $2565.  These changes will make the process more accessible to more teachers–time, financial issues, family and other commitments, will no longer be quite the road block they once were to pursuing this rigorous process.  This increase in accessibility is welcome!

Currently, the National Board process consists of four entries and six assessment center exercises, and candidates complete all of this in one year.  NBPTS is looking to reformulate those 10 parts into a smaller number of components. Implementation of the new process will be spread over multiple years as components are developed and released. Two of the components will likely be available in 2014-2015, and the other components after that.  

Once all of the components are available, candidates will have a choice:  Want to do the whole thing in one year?  Great!  Do circumstances necessitate that you spread it out over several years?  That's fine too!

What's not changing?  The rigor and the National Board standards.  This thing is still going to be tough, and it's still going to focus on improving student learning.

There are some long and short term implications.  In the short term, rolling it out over a few years means that the only candidates certifying in that transitional time span will be retake candidates from previous cycles.  What does this mean for candidates who had been planning for a stipend, such as candidates who may have been counting on it for the last ten years before retirement?  What does this mean for candidates who had been counting on National Board Certification to fulfill state teaching certificate requirements ?

What do these changes mean for this year?  Will there be an influx of candidates this fall once teachers realize that if they do not get into the pipeline now, it will be a few years before they are able to receive certification?  Or, on the other hand, will candidates want to wait and not start until next year so they can be part of the new process?  How do Take One candidates fit in?

What about the next few years?  What will candidate support systems look like? How will cohorts be structured?  What are the implications for legislative support?  How about those National Board rituals, both big and small?  This past year, we lost "the box" and the associated "packing parties" with the move to online submission.  That turned out, for the most part, to be a welcome change.   As this new National Board Certification process moves foward, what are the shared events and key moments that will bring NBCTs together?

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7 thoughts on “National Board Certification: The Times They are A-Changin’

  1. Tom

    Two things:
    1. I like the changes. A lot. I think the National Board, in order to stay relevant,needs to be more accessible, just as rigorous and reflect the latest research. The changes reflect these.
    2. I wish the transition period wouldn’t leave people in the lurch. Candidates who were planning to pursue certification in the next few years might get disenchanted. That also goes for the support provider community, which has become an integral part of the infrastructure.

  2. Mark Gardner

    I think skepticism is important. I’m not fully informed and therefore not fully sold on this yet. There’s still that little piece of me that wonders who is making more money off of these changes. As I dig in a little more, I hope that the money question is rendered moot by evidence that the process is still as challenging and meaningful as the previous incarnation(s).

  3. Norma Cooper

    The expense of the thing has always been a problem for many teachers. I am really in favor of the pay as you go idea, especially since my state no longer offers a stipend of any kind and hasn’t for many years now. I thought the Take One was a vast improvement over doing all four at once as I did. I hope the new revamp will offer even more opportunity for overworked teachers with many outside responsibilities access to the process.

  4. Lisa Williams

    I am worried that the rigor involved will lesson. I don’t want National Board to become just a piece of paper. Yes, it is/was hard – but that was one of the things that drew me in. I wanted the challenge, I wanted to be tested. I like the idea of being able to draw it out over more than one year. I didn’t have a problem with the time, but then I am single and could put in the hours without worrying about young children. I’m not sure why the need is there to diminish the requirements. We are going from 10 entries to 4, what will be lost in the process? Is NBCT changing for the better? Only time will tell, for me from what I have seen I’m not convinced.

  5. Maren Johnson

    Hi Lisa,
    From what I understand, it is not really a “reduction” of the 10 current entries and exercises to four new components–it is more of a “repackaging” into four (or some other number) new components–a component might incorporate elements from more than one previous entry or exercise.
    Whatever the details end up being, I am hopeful that we will find out more soon!

  6. Cynthia Rucker

    The cost prohibited quite a few teachers from attempting NBCT in the past. Like others, I hope the rigor stays. 🙂
    Cynthia Rucker, NBCT 2009

  7. Cheryl

    I do not understand how a change that locks teachers out of getting certified for three years makes certification more accessible. I wonder how many teachers like myself have put plans for participating in the process on hold for the past few years due to instability in our careers– constant layoffs, grade-level, and school changes.
    There was no mention of these changes before school started this year. Was there an influx of applications? Did many teachers even know the change was coming? I almost did Take 1. I’m now so very glad I didn’t.
    The lack of notice, change midstream to those doing Take 1, and nonavailability of certification to teachers for the next three years gives me no confidence in the ability of the people heading up NBCT to lead. Three years. They’re going to lose a lot of mid-career teacher leaders like myself.

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