• The Basics of National Board Certification for RCSD Teachers

    Updated September 2009


     National Board Certification is a one to three year individual professional development activity for teachers.  It was begun over 20 years ago out of the need for comprehensive school reform stemming directly from the "A Nation at Risk" Report.  The idea for individual advanced professional certification for teachers was first called for by Al Shanker, president of the United Federation of Teachers.  He saw the need for an equivalent professional certification to doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. that prove their competence in their professionals before boards of their peers. 


    The Basics of National Board Certification

     National Board Certification is offered by the NBPTS, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.  This is an independent organization funded through government grants and private groups.  Achieving certification is recognized by states and school districts across the country as the gold standard in recognizing accomplished teaching.  It is not a certification to teach awarded by the state, however, it is recognized as a certificate of advanced distinction in the profession.  NBCTs are automatically deemed to be "Highly Qualified" to teach in that subject area in NYS. 


    To be eligible for National Board Certification, you must meet three basic requirements

    1.      You must have a bachelors degree

    2.      You must hold a teacher's certificate

    3.      You must have three years of teaching experience

    The 5 Core Propositions

    The NBPTS has outlined 5 core propositions that frame all of the thinking that went into the development of the standards as well as the characteristics of an NBCT.  These are:
    Proposition 1: Teachers are committed to students and their learning
    Proposition 2: Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
    Proposition 3: Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
    Proposition 4: Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
    Proposition 5: Teachers are members of learning communities.


    The Certification Areas

    Board certification is offered in most teaching areas, as well as counseling, library/media, and other special areas. Certification areas are similar to NYS certification areas.  Depending on the certification area, these are often broken up into age groups representing early childhood, middle childhood, early adolescence, and adolescence/young adult.



    The Timeline and Scoring

    National Board Certification is described as a 3-year process.  All candidates complete the entire portfolio in year one.  The individual pieces are rated over the summer and candidates are given their scores in the fall.   If a candidate scores enough points to certify (275 points of 400 possible) that candidate is immediately designated an NBCT and finished with the process.  If a candidate does get 275 points, he/she can continue on and re-do only the portions of the portfolio that did not meet the designated standard.  The second and third years of the process are for these "Retakes".




    The basic cost of National Board Certification is $2500 plus a $65 registration fee. 

    In New York State, the NYS Teachers of Tomorrow/Al Shanker Grant will pay all of this except for the Registration fee.  To be eligible, you must be a tenured teacher.  If not, you are still eligible for approximately half of the fee paid by the NBPTS.  Candidates that need to retake portions of the portfolio are charged $270 for each.  The Shanker grant has funding for two retakes per candidate, if these are necessary. 


    Payment of the Shanker Grant is in two stages.  Initially, the candidate pays $500 + the $65 registration fee.  After the candidate completes all of the Portfolio requirements (The BOX and The Assessment Center, the Shanker Grant reimburses the $500. 


    The Candidate Portfolio

    All candidates produce a portfolio of their work that consists of two distinct parts, the written portfolio and the assessment center.  The Written Portfolio represents you work in and out of the classroom.  The assessment center portion of the portfolio is designed to measure your knowledge of content. 
    The Written Portfolio (The BOX!)
    To complete the certification process, you must put together a structured portfolio that represents your work over one school year.  Typically, candidates begin in the summer or fall; however, one can actually begin in April.  There are 4 major pieces of the written portfolio that are due to the NBPTS in late March.  These are the written entries that go in "THE BOX".  
    Each entry asks you to examine one aspect of your work, document what you do and how you do it, then reflect on this. 
    Each certification area will specify the areas of your work that are to be examined in each entry.  For many certification areas but not all, Entries 1-3 are similar in nature. 
    Entries 2 and 3 in all certification areas require a video of your work with students.  This can be up to 15 minutes long and must be uncut.  IT does NOT need to be professional quality or of "The perfect lesson". 
    Each of the four written entries is a 10 to 12 page written document that describes your work, analyzes it, and reflects on it.  The directions for each entry are very specific and contain all of the questions that you need to answer in your writing.  In short, you are merely answering the questions you are asked. 

    Each of the four written entries may also ask you to provide additional documentation such as student work samples, descriptions of your school and classes, lessons or unit plans, etc.  Although these are not the main part of the entry, they are important to the understanding of the assessor.
    For all entries, you choose the class, students, activities, units, lessons, etc. that you will feature and write about in your entry. 
    For all certification areas, Entry 4 is the same.  This asks you to present up to eight Accomplishments or activities that you do outside of your classroom that contribute to your student, school, or profession.  
    The Assessment Center
    For the assessment center portion of the portfolio, you will also be required to go to an on-line assessment center to complete a series of six assessments of your content knowledge. Each of these is 30 minutes long.  Typically a candidate completes all of these in one sitting.  (Breaks between each are allowed.) 

    Although not required, we typically recommend that first-time candidates wait until after THE BOX is completed in late March to worry about the assessment center portion of the portfolio.  Generally, candidates do this in April or May.
    Benefits and Inventives

    RCSD will reimburse for the costs of National Board Certification upon completion of the process.  For most candidates, this would be the $65 registration fee.  For some, this would also include any retake fees not covered by the Shanker Grant.  The district maintains that in order to reimburse a candidate, the candidate must achieve Certification.


    For NBCTs, there is a $1500 incentive written into the contract.  This is contingent on the NBCT candidate also receiving a rating of "Distinguished" on their annual evaluation.


    NBCT is especially considered for such things as Lead Teacher positions. 

    Additional Benefits and Incentives

    3 Graduate credit hours are available for completion of the process.  An additional 3 hours are available when a candidate achieves certification. 


    The RCSD grants 10 hours of PD credit to candidates that complete the process.  20 hours are also available to participants in the NBPTS Collegial Circle.   


    Other Incentives

    THE NYS Teachers of Tomorrow Grant provides for a $10,000 payment to an NBCT working in a SINI or SURR school.  This payment is made each year for up to 3 years.   ($10,000 EACH year)  No more than three years will be awarded even if you transfer to another SINI or SURR school and begin another three year cycle.  There is no guarantee that this grant will be in place from year to year, however, it is not expected to be withdrawn in the foreseeable future.  


     Your Next Steps

    Visit www.nbpts.org 
    Print the portfolio directions for your certification area and read them thoroughly. 
    Contact Stephen.Ohara@rcsdk12.org or Joseph.Zuniga@rcsdk12.org to discuss any questions you may have or to  become a part of the many candidate support activities that we have. 


    The Rochester Teachers Center is highly supportive of Candidates and may be able to be of assistance to potential candidates.  They support a collegial circle for candidates and potential candidates, can arrange for individual support, videotaping for portfolio entries, and provide other assistance as needed.   http://www.rochesterteachercenter.com/

    Helpful Tools

    The 2009 guide to National Board Certification is available in PDF format on the NBPTS Website.    This covers much of the information here in greater detail.  This can also be e-mailed to you by Steve O'Hara or any NBCT. 


    Click here for additional information:  Al Shanker Grant information and application