Why Teachers Should Pursue National Board Certification


On top of possible towering student loan debt, long hours, and low pay, why in the world would teachers invest nearly $2000 and a year of their time to become a National Board Certified Teacher? The answers might surprise you - and inspire you to join their ranks.

The Basics of National Board Certification

National Board Certification was developed to highlight and recognize accomplished teaching and is based on the Five Core Propositions for Teaching. The evaluation for this voluntary certification is performance-based and peer-reviewed. Educators can choose from 25 different certification areas available for pre-K through 12th grade.

The Process of Becoming Certified

Let's make this clear up front: certification is incredibly hard work. It's time-consuming, brain-racking, and will, at times, make you doubt your skills as a teacher. Admit it - you're a teacher - those are all actually really good things (we'll, maybe not the time-consuming part). But, like most worthwhile endeavors, it requires a time commitment.

To be eligible for National Board Certification you must have:

  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Valid state licensure
  • Three years of classroom experience

National Board Certification is made up of four components. The first component is a computer-based assessment and can be taken at any authorized testing center around the country. The last three components are evaluated by on-line portfolio submission, requiring videos of in-classroom teaching sessions and student work samples in addition to other written support documentation.

Calendar and money

Components can be taken individually, but you must attempt all of them within three years of initial registration. You have three attempts at each component (initial and two retakes). Completion can take as little as a year from registration to announcement of results (if all four components are attempted in a year) or up to five years.

National Board Certification is an investment. As of 2016, the minimum cost to apply is $1975 if you are able to apply and successfully complete all four components in the initial year. Some states offer grants or loans to cover the cost of certification. There may also be a limited number of scholarships available directly from the National Certification Board.

Why You Should Make the Investment

Male teacher smiling

After reviewing what's involved in the process, it's fairly obvious that most teachers are probably not becoming National Board Certified teachers (NBCTs) for the possible financial gain. So why are teachers willing to invest so much of themselves - and their free time - to become an NBCT? And why should you?

Here are five good reasons:

1. You Will Become a Better Teacher

If you ask a teacher who is in the throws of rounding up materials and writing reflections whether she thinks the process is worth the effort, she may respond with What was I thinking?! However, if you ask that same teacher a few years later, she will say it was worth every minute. That's what Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy thought, and if you read the comments on her post, you'll see there are others who concur. Amber Rain Chandler from MiddleWeb and her colleagues all agree that reflection and self-inspection drive their teaching higher. And research backs it up - studies have shown that National Board Certified teachers are more effective in the classroom than their non-certified counterparts.

2. Your Students Will Benefit

Teacher working with students

Students who have National Board Certified teachers learn more; Research has proven it. And the benefits to minority and low-income students are even more noticeable. The results: higher test scores and up to two-months' gain in learning compared to classes taught by non-NBC teachers.

3. Financial Benefits

Many states offer pay incentives and stipends to National Board Certified teachers. For example:

  • North Carolina offers an annual 12%-of-base pay incentive
  • South Carolina and Nebraska offer $5000 annual stipends
  • Washington state NBCTs who teach in high-need schools can receive up to $10,090 annually

4. Career Advancement

National Board Certification can help meet the criteria necessary for top tier licensure in many states and designates you as a Highly Qualified Teacher by No Child Left Behind guidelines. These can be valuable career assets. According to the Center on Reinventing Public Education, certification can be a great bargaining chip when looking to change teaching assignments. Should you decide to teach in another state, as an NBCT you may not be required to complete testing in the new state. If you're interested in pursuing leadership or administrative positions (academic coach, principal, or superintendent) within your district, National Board Certification can help you stand out as a leader among other candidates.

5. Help Raise the Bar

Career advancement notes on blackboard

As an NBCT, you can help raise the level of professional expectations. Only about 3% of U.S. teachers are Board Certified, but the goal of the National Certification Board is make Board Certification the norm by creating a continuum throughout the profession. As educators become certified, they are encouraged to work as mentors and leaders in the academic arena. Board Certified teachers have participated in a Congressional forum, and they work to shape education legislation in Washington.

NBCTs also give back by participating in ATLAS, the on-line resource where educators around the world can watch National Board Certified teachers in action and learn from their experience and insights. They also are encouraged to become part of the Network to Transform Teaching, an initiative to help raise up the next generation of Board Certified teachers.

Sure, National Board Certification is a lot of work - hard work. But the rewards are many. Step up to the challenge - it may be the best thing you can do for your teaching career - and your students!

By Laurie Smith
September 2016
teachers teacher professional development

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