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Conquering National Board Certification (and Why It’s Totally Worth It)


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Later this month, thousands of teachers will go online to find out if they have become National Board Certified Teachers. This moment will come after eight months of hard work, and six more months of waiting. They will be nervous, I know, because in November of 2004, I did the same thing.

For me, pursuing National Board Certification was the absolute best professional decision I ever made. It was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In many ways, it was like a long, slow gladiator fight, battling beast after beast until I was the last one standing, bloody and dirty, but victorious.

If you’ve gone through the process, you know what I mean. If you’re considering it, I’m here to tell you that you’re in for a fight, but when you’re done, you’ll be stronger and better, and so glad you did it.

The Beginning

Early in my teaching career, I thought the only way to advance in this profession was with more degrees: a master’s for sure, and possibly a doctorate. Then I attended a conference in Detroit, where I learned about the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the organization that offers National Board Certification. I fell in love with the idea instantly: Phrases like “the most challenging thing you’ll ever do” and “only 40 percent of candidates pass the first year” had my overachieving inner child positively drooling. But you couldn’t apply without 3 years of teaching experience, and the $2,000 price tag was steep, so I put it on the back burner for later.

Fast-forward to August of 2003. I sent in my application fee, and a few weeks later, my mailman delivered THE BOX. About the size of a briefcase, the box contained a dozen or so large envelopes and instructions for completing my portfolio, which would be due in April of the following year. Although the specific content is different for every certification area (find yours here), portfolio requirements are similar across the board: two video entries of actual teaching practice, one in-depth examination of student work samples, and Documented Accomplishments, where candidates provide evidence of work with families and the community, work as a learner, and work as a collaborator and/or leader.

But that was not all. In addition to the portfolio, my certification would also be based on a 3-hour written exam I’d take in the Spring. It would assess my knowledge in literary analysis, reading and writing instructional theory, and language study; all areas I’m expected to have expertise in as a language arts teacher.

With my work laid out before me, I began. Over the next six months, I read and wrote and thought more deeply than I ever had before. The process was incredibly time-consuming, life-consuming, and at times I couldn’t believe I’d actually paid money to put myself in that position.

What made it so hard? And is it even worth the trouble? In the nine years since I achieved initial certification, I have figured out just what made it so challenging for me. It was four things, really; four things they don’t cover in the instructions.

And yes, it’s definitely worth the trouble.

The Four Beasts of National Board Certification

Without a doubt, earning National Board Certification requires serious immersion in best practices for your content area. But being well-versed in good teaching isn’t enough to get you all the way there. Because what’s really being tested is your ability to fight four massive, intangible beasts that come after you again and again throughout the process. If someone is able to prevail against these four, they’re well within their rights to do a bit of chest-beating when it’s all over.

The Beast of Logistics

Assembling your portfolio requires obsessive attention to detail. The instructions contain page after page of specs that address everything from font size to page length to how much you should enlarge your driver’s license when photocopying it. There are dozens of cover sheets. Dozens of forms to be signed. And everywhere, everywhere, this panic-inducing message: If any of these components are missing or incorrect, your entry will not be scored.

The time it took to me comb through these details may have actually exceeded the time I spent planning and teaching the lessons themselves. What does any of this have to do with teaching? I wondered.

I’ll tell you what it has to do with teaching: Teachers have to pay attention to details. Teaching is not comprised entirely of floating into classrooms, emitting bursts of Rain Man-like brilliance, and floating away again. We have to align our lessons with standards, complete IEPs and gifted service plans, and make sure our credentials are up to date. We need to read about new strategies, keep up with advancements in our field, learn new technologies, and pursue graduate studies. A gifted actor still has to be counted on to learn his lines and show up on time for shoots. A gifted surgeon still needs to follow hospital procedure. Any principal will tell you that a teacher who isn’t able to consistently read and follow instructions is a constant headache. If we are going to call ourselves professionals, details have to matter.

What helped me fight this particular beast was joining a support group, led by two experienced NBCTs. In our monthly meetings, we read and re-read the instructions, discovering the minutiae that could sink us if we weren’t careful. Without this group effort, I surely would have missed something. If you don’t have access to a support group, even finding one other candidate to work with can go a long way. Just don’t try to do it all by yourself.

The Beast of Procrastination

Because certification is self-guided, candidates have to plan and stick to regular periods of work. I’m sure there are some people who manage to pull together everything they need at the last minute, but they are the exception. (They are also probably the same people who have perfect marriages, easy pregnancies, and “don’t need much sleep.”)

This beast is the one that sets National Board Certification apart from graduate degrees. In most graduate programs, students have regular assignments, meetings, and other deadlines that force them to keep up a steady stream of work. Someone who has earned their NBCT did not necessarily have any of that structure, so the credential tells you they were somehow able to manage their time well enough to get everything done, and done well.

My support group was also key to meeting this challenge. Our mentors set “suggested” deadlines for bringing in drafts of our entries – failure to do so had no consequence, but we’d miss the opportunity for feedback and would fall behind. This process can easily be replicated in a smaller group, or even on your own: However you do it, setting mini-deadlines along the way will get you to the end in one piece.

The Beast of Holdups, Delays and Setbacks

Pursuing National Board Certification forces you to keep going long after you think you’ve had enough. Things will go wrong: Cameras will record without sound. Lessons will flop. Students whose work you planned to use will move halfway through the year. You will get sick. Snow days will happen. Setbacks like these will discourage some candidates to the point where they just can’t keep going. If you can, you’re demonstrating a tenacity that sets you apart.

This tenacity becomes especially critical if you don’t certify the first time around. Many candidates do not earn high enough scores to certify in their first year of candidacy. Once they receive this news, they must choose which items to do a second time around – often a combination of some portfolio entries and portions of the written exam. You can “bank” the scores you’d like to keep, then re-do others for a higher score. Sounds simple, but the inner strength it takes to get back on that horse after so much disappointment is incredible. Some think it’s a negative thing to certify in your second or third year; I say those are the people to admire more, because they didn’t give up.

The key to beating this beast is simply knowing it’s there. Just be ready for it. Plan for things to go wrong. Do a lot of trial runs. Consider the first lesson you record to be the first of many. Go into the process fully expecting that you’ll have to re-do some things…

Which brings me to the last beast, the biggest and fiercest one of all.

The Beast of Ego

Among my certification materials was an 80-page booklet of standards that would be used to score my work. These standards scared the crap out of me. The more I read, the more I thought: I don’t do that. I don’t do that. Not that either. Who does all that?

Here’s an example; just one section of one of my sixteen standards: Accomplished teachers facilitate classroom conversation. In these teachers’ classrooms, students can be found engaging in exploratory conversations about texts. Students pay attention to one another’s comments about texts, ask each other questions, challenge one another, defend their individual opinions, and work cooperatively toward reaching consensus or clarifying and understanding differing perspectives about matters of urgency to them and their peers.

It sounded like heaven. And nothing like my classes.

Every standard I read made me feel more and more incompetent. Freaking out one night, I called Lynn, one of my support group mentors. I’m pretty sure I was crying.

Me: These standards. There’s just so much! They’re impossible! I hardly do any of these things!

Lynn: (pause) … So start.

Me: …

Lynn: Start doing some of them. No one does all those things all the time. It’s an ideal. Something we should all be trying to do. If you haven’t been doing them yet, now’s the time to start.

That advice helped more than she knew. I took a breath, stepped away for a day or two, then looked through the standards again and picked a few areas I could work on. Instead of turning my anxiety on the standards themselves, dismissing them as unrealistic, I began to recognize their value. And after wallowing in self-pity because the standards were too hard, I started to get motivated by their near-impossibility. Didn’t I want high standards? What was the alternative? Standards that basically said, Just do what you think is best, and that’ll be good? You’re perfect no matter what? Not really. And hearing Lynn say that no one exhibits these all the time calmed me down. There’s a reason you get half a year to assemble your portfolio: Pulling together your very best work takes a LOT of time.

A few weeks later, I found myself in despair again. This time over the word EVIDENCE. It kept turning up. In every portfolio entry, they kept asking me to point to evidence of student learning.

Evidence? I thought at first. I beg your pardon? Is it not enough to teach with supreme energy and grace?

It sounds strange to me now, but the concept really was baffling at the time. In one video, I had to show myself conducting a whole-class discussion. I did that, and thought I’d really done a good job. But then, in my written analysis, I had to point to specific instances in the video where student learning was evident. And, well…I couldn’t do it. They talked, of course, but did the things they said actually demonstrate that they were reaching my stated objective for the discussion? Not really.

Despite having what I originally thought were great video entries, I ended up re-doing both of mine. Because even though I had already put so much work and time into those lessons, when I started writing up my analysis, I realized I couldn’t point to the kind of evidence I was supposed to have. There was no way to BS this one. I had to actually get better.

Getting over your own ego is most definitely the biggest challenge of National Board Certification. And it’s the one that makes the biggest difference, too. Because pursuing certification isn’t really about proving what a great teacher you already are; it merely shows you the path to greatness. If you’re able to drop your defenses, set your ego aside and take some good, heavy steps on that path, then…then you’ve earned the right to put the NBCT after your name.

A Fight Worth Fighting

Certification did not make me a flawless teacher. What it did was give me a process for making sense of the times when things go wrong. And the urge to make sense of them. And the belief that it’s my responsibility to make sense of them.

And that’s it right there, the reason it was worth it: Above all else, certification made me believe the buck stops with me. If my students don’t learn, it’s on me. Even if they come from chaotic environments – it’s on me to figure out how to reach them. Even if they are chronic absentees – it’s on me to connect with their families and help them devise a plan to improve attendance. Even if I have an unsupportive administration, toxic co-workers, limited supplies. It’s on me. If the air conditioning goes out, if the Internet is down, it’s on me to improvise, to model good character, to lead. Throw bad policy at me — I’ll find a way to teach my students anyway. I know what I need to do. I am the teacher. I am the professional. It’s on me. ♦

What is National Board Certification? Issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the certification takes 1 to 3 years to complete and is the highest professional certification a teacher can earn. National Board Certification is offered to educators from pre-K through high school, in just about every subject area, including concentrations like Career and Technical Education, English as a New Language, Physical Education, and Counseling.

Have you considered pursuing National Board certification? What questions or concerns do you have? If you are already an NBCT, tell us about your experience. Would you recommend the process to others? How has it impacted you?

Are you a candidate who needs support? Join our NBCT Support Facebook community, where other candidates come together to share experiences, answer questions, and give advice!

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  1. Shirley says:

    I found out last week I passed my NB in the certification area of EC Generalist ages 3-8. I was a retake candidate. I originally started in the 2010-2011 cycle. Sitting in front of a computer for almost 4 hours was not my forté as I could see my scores were getting lower as the computer exercises neared the end. At the beginning of the 2012-13 cycle I was notified this was the last year to bank my scores. I signed up for 3 computer exercises.
    Some advice:
    1)Do not do this alone. I had a few teachers re-read my entries to give me feedback and go over every detail.
    2) have the video camera as early as you can in the school year. Just having it in the room on the tripod helped my students ( Kindergartners) get accustomed to it being in the room.
    3) Do not procrastinate
    Why did I do this? My background is in Early Childhood Development and I have been teaching Kindergarten for 15 years. I have seen the tremendous shift to academics. There is an entry on Children’s Play, Social Studies with an integration of Art, and Health, P.E. and Safety. Over my career I have seen these critical areas for learning be pushed out so that Kindergartners can be reading by Christmas. When I saw the entries I knew this spoke to my Child Development roots.
    This was very validating for me (especially since I teach transitional Kindergartners in CA) and most definitely worth it.

    • Shirley, thanks so much for contributing. And congratulations!! Retake candidates deserve a ton of respect and admiration — it takes a lot of character to put yourself through the process, not knowing for sure how it’s going to turn out. Your assessment center exercises sound really stressful — I don’t remember there being any kind of on-screen indicator of how well I was doing, but it was 9 years ago, so maybe I’m just forgetting that. Still, it can’t really be good for candidates!

      Great advice on all counts. Absolutely crucial to have support from other candidates and mentors, if possible. And yes! The video camera! Not just for getting the kids used to it, but just getting it, period: making sure it does what you need it to do in terms of sound, etc. And taking lots of practice videos — because they just don’t ever work out the first time around.

      I think your rationale for going into the process is really interesting, and it’s something I hadn’t thought of. The National Board standards really do emphasize a more “whole child” approach to teaching, and current trends in standards assessment and implementation are not really in line with ALL of those standards. What this could mean is that NBCTs, knowing what we know, could potentially have a much greater voice in policy. Going through the process definitely gave me more confidence in my beliefs about what is effective and what is not, and all that writing gave me a lot more practice in expressing and defending those ideas. The NBPTS does work on the federal and state level to influence policy — I haven’t followed their work closely, but for anyone whose certification got them burning to make bigger and broader changes, that would be a great place to start.

      • Rhae Nell says:

        I am desperately trying to find an online way to study and answer sample math questions for my content knowledge math test. I am headed to Barnes and Nobel tomorrow…but…any suggestions. Thanks in advance.

    • Gina says:

      Hi Shirley. I am aiming for NBC in EG 3-8. I am working with colleagues but none of them doing this content area. I am overwhelmed and petrified. Can you tell my your thoughts on why you didn’t pass the first time? Is there something I can be mindful of as I embark on this journey?

      • Olenma C Alvarez says:

        I too, am working on NBC with a friend and co-worker and we are both extremely nervous about the process and results. Are there any tips that you have learned about with regards to Comp.3 for EC Generalist 3-8?


    • Katie Biggs says:

      Is there a study guide to the Early Childhood standards that we will be assessed on? I am just beginning this process… so scared.
      Thank you for your help.

  2. Trisha says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I am Trisha Pitts and I am your mother’s friend. Mary worked as a volunteer in my first grade classroom in Lowell. We met the last time you were visiting your parents. I just got to check out your site. So far, it is very cool and thought provoking! We all can relate on so many levels. I definitely will check it out more when I have more time and I will pass it on.
    Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    • Hi Trisha! I’m so glad you’re here! Mom has said a lot of wonderful things about you, so I’m sure you’ll have some good things to contribute. Welcome!

  3. christine berg says:

    I began an application for Take One earlier this year, but then received notice that the process will be changing. I am considering applying for National Certification under the current process, but that would mean that I would have to complete the entire process by May. I am an older teacher and do not really want to wait until 2017 to become certified, but from what you have described, I don’t know if it is realistic to think that I could accomplish everything in a few months. Any feedback you could provide would be appreciated.

    • When you say “older”…what exactly are we talking about? I have a friend who didn’t certify until she was almost ready to retire. She was so invigorated by the process, she went on to teach 10 more years. I say that because I think the process really does change you, regardless of when you do it.

      I would not recommend trying to complete the full certification in just 4 months. It’s just too much and you’re probably more likely to not certify, because you’ll be too rushed to get all the details right. Now if you are an incredibly driven person and have a pretty easy workload (and no kids), then it could be done. But in any other scenario, the strain it could put on you could make it four months of hell.

      I just took a look at the details of the changes, and yes, it looks like 2017 is the earliest anyone new could certify. That is a drag, indeed. It looks like they’re expecting that people can get started on two components this coming fall, with the other two rolling out in the remaining two years. Honestly, I know that sounds like a long time away, but at that pace, I think you’re likely to find certification a lot more pleasant and rewarding than it was for people who did the whole thing in one year, and definitely better than doing it in four months! It looks like the National Board is really trying to make the process less stressful, while still keeping the quality. This is just one person’s opinion, but I think you’d be glad you didn’t rush it.

      For the record, I think the NBPTS could have handled certain changes better. I was in the middle of renewing my certification this past school year. In January, they sent us all a letter announcing they were switching our submission to digital, MID-YEAR. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just wait until the next cycle to do that. In that same vein, I’m not sure why they couldn’t allow the current process to stand until they have the revisions done, then roll those out to the new cycle of candidates, so this big interruption could be avoided.

      Anyway, if they are making improvements, it’s a good thing. I already thought the original process was so valuable, so if they are going to make it better, that means it’s probably going to be very, very good. The fact that they are carefully getting input from current NBCTs is an excellent sign.

      So let me know what you decide to do. I’ll be wondering!!

  4. christine berg says:

    Thanks so much for your response. I am 50, so I feel a some pressure to achieve this before I retire. However, I think I am going to take my time and enroll in the spring for the new process. In thinking about what you have written, it seems that going through the process itself is what makes it worthwhile. I want to derive as much benefit from this as possible, and being stressed and rushed wouldn’t be the way to do that. Thank you again for your feedback. I am looking forward to beginning a new challenge in my career!

    • Fantastic. I’m so glad to hear it. I’m pretty sure you’d register in the fall, which would give you the most time before your submission deadline, so look into that this summer. Please come back and tell us how it’s going — I think lots of people are curious about how the new process is going to work. Good luck!

  5. christine berg says:

    I keep telling myself that… 🙂

  6. Jody Nathan says:

    Well, shoot fire Jennifer, maybe you can add another start-up and be our group facilitator! (For a fee of course!) You are our MARIGOLD after all!
    I am also 50, (okay 51!) and frankly have sooooo much fear! I would like to be brave enough to tackle the BEAST! It would be so much better with a group- Just like a Personal Trainer in the gym!

    • Jody, you have given me an idea. I have been considering starting groups on Voxer for various interest areas…maybe I could start my first one for new NBCT candidates?

      • Julia K says:

        Jennifer, I just stumbled across your post during a preliminary Google search for info on NBCT–if a support group existed and you ran it I would join without hesitation! 🙂 Your words are pure encouragement mixed with a healthy dose of reality–thank you for writing this! I wasn’t seriously considering persuing certification until now; I won’t be eligible to start my training for another year (and I’ll need to finish my master’s first, so most likely two or three years) but I’m hopeful that I can start working on some of the standards now. Also, you’re great.

        • Julia, you just totally made my night. Please let new know when you’re ready to get started and maybe we can get a group together!

  7. Helen says:

    Thank you for this post – the encouragement was exactly what I needed! I’m starting the process this year and am wondering what equipment/set up you, or Shirley from 2 years ago, used or would recommend for recording lessons? Also, I turn 50 on the first day of school this year and didn’t think of myself as “older” until reading the comments above! Yipes! Now I’m wondering if there are things I should stop doing or approach differently!

    • Hi Helen! Because you are submitting everything digitally, I would recommend you use a video camera that will record things digitally (rather than on tape). For my renewal, I used a Sony Cybershot, which is a regular digital camera that also does video. I just had a friend record for me, and walk around as I interacted with groups. Never had to mess around with microphones or anything, because it picked up sound well enough.

      By the way, you definitely shouldn’t think of yourself as “older.” You’re the PERFECT age for Board certification!

  8. Christine Berg says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    I am the person who started the whole conversation about being “old” at 50! I emailed you back in January of 2014 about starting the National Board Certification process. Well, I went for it and am now an NBCT! It was a lot of work to pack into 5 months, but it was a fantastic experience, and I’m so glad that I did it! I am now contemplating what my next step should be and how I can use what I have learned to further my career and help others. I return to your site again and again for inspiration and guidance on various topics. Yours is by far my favorite blog! Keep up the good work.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I’m considering going through this process after my principal approached me about it last year. I have to admit that I’m nervous and terrified but also excited to grow as a professional.

    • Hi Amber.
      I’m thinking if your principal approached YOU about it, that’s a pretty big vote of confidence. If you decide to do it, please come back and report on your progress!
      (p.s. I hope you do it.)

  10. Sharon says:

    Hi Jennifer-
    Last night I started looking into NB certification, and was so excited to stumble on this post today! (I’m calling it a sign.)

    If you decide to start a group to support candidates, I would so be there!

    Thanks for all you do for teaching and teachers,

    • Hey Sharon! I’m still thinking about it–trying to come up with a way to do it so it can fit into my schedule. What would you think about a Facebook group?

  11. I’m down for a group!! Just registered and looking for resources.

  12. Sara S says:

    Thank you for sharing this insightful entry about NBCT! I have been reading up on NBCT at but have also been looking for information on someone’s first hand experience! I understand the journey to becoming certified will require a great deal of me as a teacher and I can’t help but wonder if I’m ready. I wont qualify until after this school year when I’ve completed a total of three years. Would you recommend someone who feels they could use more experience, earn a Master’s degree before applying to be a NBCT or do you feel that the process of becoming a NBCT is enough to push and grow a teacher on its own? Thank you for any advice you could offer! 🙂

    • Hi Sara!

      This is a tough one to answer. If other NBCTs find this and have an opinion, I would love to have you weigh in. For me personally, having a Master’s in my content area (writing) was a plus, because the Documented Accomplishments component of the portfolio asks you to provide evidence of professional growth, so having that graduate work under my belt was helpful in terms of achieving certification. On the other hand, if you are making a deliberate effort to find your own high-quality professional development, especially the kind you can document, then you’d be fine doing it without a Master’s.

      Having said that, I definitely feel that the process of pursuing your NBCT certification is a far more enriching experience than just about any Master’s program could offer. In terms of growing as a teacher, I got far more out of my certification process than I did from graduate study. So if your main question is which one will offer the most professional growth, National Board certification wins, no contest.

      Hope this helps!

  13. Rhonda says:

    This question will be coming from left field, but that is where I reside! I am an experienced teacher with a BA and MS, currently an at home mom. My family moves frequently, as we are a military family. I’m not planning to work full time until after this school year. Is it possible to work on NBCT with small tutoring groups from home? That is what I do these days, but am looking toward a year from now, and where I want to be academically.

  14. Thanks a lot for the post! It gave me a couple good tips and energized me.

  15. Shelly says:

    Wowza! Your blog is full of such amazing information. If I manage to apply for the grant in the Fall of 2016 I’ll be one of the first candidates to try the new format and it terrifies me! I would love to be in a FB group or anything with anyone else who is about to partake on this super scary journey.

  16. Maddie says:

    Hi there! I did a quick search on people’s experiences with NBCT (as I’m the process of applying for my county to represent me) and of course my google search led me directly to your blog! I swear I find the best stuff on here! Thank you again for sharing your experiences and advice, this is one of the best education blogs on the web!

  17. Jennifer, thank you for the awesome website. I am considering NBC and am presently teaching physics at an alternative high school here in Missouri. I have been teaching for more than twenty years and began teaching at risk students at my current school 4 years ago. I love it…but it is the hardest work I have ever done. Working with my students, I don’t get picture perfect lessons…ever. Instruction includes building relationships by cooking pancakes before class for students who haven’t eaten, active disruptions that must be navigated while still teaching, reteaching unanticipated basic skills on the fly, or stopping instruction to help with a student’s family crisis. Is it actually feasible for a teacher in my position to meet the expectations of National Board Certification?

    • Hi Laura,

      I work for Cult of Pedagogy as a Customer Experience Manager; thank you for your kind words! I apologize for such a delay in response. I assume at this point you’ve probably made a decision, but just in case, I would join the Facebook group Jenn created (link just above where comments start) and throw this out there. They’re incredibly active, and you could get lots of opinions from people all over. I have not gone through the process myself, but Jenn’s experience was incredibly time-consuming, challenging, and rewarding. We wish you the best!

  18. Alli says:

    I just sent a request to join the facebook group 🙂
    I’m currently at my third school. At the previous two, whenever National Board Certification was mentioned, the response was “oh, well no one does that!” At this school, however, I’m surrounded by faculty who are constantly pushing themselves– About a third (ish) of them are NBCT. My husband and I are still child-free, and I think it’s a choice of doing it now or waiting 15 years.

  19. Brian says:

    It’s definitely not worth it! My wife took it 3 times and it almost destroyed her and our relationship. It’s stupid. It doesn’t make you a better teach nor does it give you that much money.

    • Rick says:

      I know this . . . I am going through this process and it has NOT made me a better teacher. . . I have become better at figuring out exactly what they want to hear by reading over their “What makes for great teaching” at their website.

  20. Sue says:

    Not a good experience. My creativity and pace in the classroom were stifled, and I found myself spending way too much time staging lessons instead of teaching them. I felt bad that my students were losing out because of my having to spend so much time on the nonsense surrounding the process. And, NBPTS messed up one of my videos and said I edited it. I spent hours consciously improving nine elements of my Small Group entry and received the same score and same comments as the first time. Please understand that this process is not positive for everyone, and even those who work hard and are good teachers can fail and not know why.

  21. Meryle Hirotsu says:

    I certified in 1999 (Young Adulthood Mathematics) and renewed in 2008. I passed both times on the first try. I really feel that the National Board Certification process is an excellent professional development experience. Although it was stressful and time-consuming, I feel that it improved my teaching practice and changed the way I look at assessment, collaboration, and student learning. It has taught me to be more reflective and observant of my practice and students. I recommend not doing it alone; join a support group and collaborate with other teachers. Try not to do it all in one year; with the new changes, you can take 3 years to complete the process.

    • Stacy Evans says:

      I am so glad to read this. I am currently in my 6th year of teaching and I’m looking for the next big thing. I don’t want to become a stagnant teacher, and I think this process will help push me towards my goal of becoming a better teacher. I will also be pursuing the young adult mathematics certification. I’m nervous about finding support for this specific certification because there are only 9 (and I think 7 up to date) certifications in this area in New Jersey! I would love to become number 10.

  22. Paul Choe says:

    Hello, Jennifer! How are you?
    I am entering into my fourth year of teaching (high school math in NY) and would like to apply for NBCT. I do understand that candidates have up to three years to complete the four components, but my ambitions point me towards taking on the challenge of completing all components within my first year of applying. Of course, it would be challenging, and the reflective process may not allow for much time to reflect, but I feel that the experience of spending a year or lesson on all components could be just as meaningful, if not more, than spending three years on the process, as reflection has been a key component of my teaching since the beginning of my journey in the field. Also, I am in my 20´s, without any children, so I feel strongly that I could accomplish such a goal. However, the demands of teaching, especially in a high-needs urban public school, and the certainty that every academic year is very rigorous in terms of the workload, could make the application process quite arduous.

    I would like to know your thoughts about others you have known who have completed/submitted all NBCT certification requirements within the first year of applying, and how realistic it would be to submit high quality work. I try to pay great attention to detail when it comes to teaching/academic documents and projects, especially under time constraining conditions, and am very motivated, so I would do my absolute best, given the many teaching responsibilities I would have.

    Thank you for your anticipated response!

    Paul C.

    • Irene says:


      Did you end up doing it? Which phase are you know? Any suggestions for a person that is still deciding?

      • Hi Paul & Irene,

        We apologize for taking so long to respond! Paul, we would love to know if you’ve taken this on, but I wanted to suggest to both of you to join the NBCT Facebook group mentioned in the post a little above where comments start. They’re very active and you’d be able to hear lots of opinions.

  23. Dani says:


    I am interested in learning more about the process of becoming certified. I have one small child (2) with the goal of adding one more shortly. I also teach part time at a high school, but am in my 7th year of teaching. Would you advise I wait until after my kids are a little older? I don’t want to jump into something that I cannot commit too as much as I would like. I noticed you have 3 kids. Did you start the process before or after?

    • Hi Dani!

      I work as a Customer Experience Manager for Cult of Pedagogy. Jenn did her certification before she had kids and was pregnant as she finished. When I ran your question by her, her emphasis was definitely on how time-consuming the process is, but you certainly know your boundaries better than we do! Best of luck as you decide!

  24. Rachel says:

    Hi! I just received my scores for last year’s Component 2 in World Languages and I did not pass. The feedback was very vague and not helpful. My low score of 1.25 makes me want to challenge the score because I think it is too low. Is there a way to do this. I worked too hard on just one component and feel that I should have scored higher. My work was viewed by another National Board certified teacher and I went over every detail several times. I work in a high behavior alternative Title 1 school (most restrictive environment aside for juvenile detention) and teaching a language is very challenging. Do you know how I can challenge my score? I am not finding anything online? Thank you. Your words of inspiration has made me decide to not quit after receiving my score and push forward. (was viewing my video of this year’s component #3 and was very disappointed with it when I got my result of last year’s component so that shot my confidence to pieces!). Thanks!

    • Melanie says:

      This is the part of the process that gives me the most anxiety. The subjective was of the scoring. I have been thorough several principals/observations, and although they are not critiqued like the scoring involved with NBCT, it is obvious that it depends on who is doing the scoring.

  25. Ana Navasw says:

    Hi! I read your blog on your experience with NB certification process. I am thinking of doing this. I am trying to find an on-line group where I can ask specific questions regarding some of the advantages of completing my NB certification. You might be able to assist me as well but I did not want to just start asking questions before asking for permission.
    Let me know if you are aware of a group to ask. Thank you for your support.

    • Debbie Sachs says:

      Hi, Ana! This is Debbie, a Customer Experience Manager with Cult of Pedagogy. I saw you joined our online NBCT Support Facebook Community — this is a great place for you to ask questions!

  26. Mark says:

    I am considering getting World Languages Certified for Secondary School. I am curious how long this would take to do, how much time it usually takes daily? What are the benefits of getting certified? Would this make me more marketable? How would this improve my overall teaching? Also, what is the cost to get certified? Lots of questions I know.

  27. I have just started and I’m now working on component 4. Can I include my accomplishments years ago prior to my registration to NBPTS ? For instance, I wrote several books for elementary 5 years ago, however, I still make use of them in my classroom as an additional resource that can be readily available if needed. Hope anyone can enlighten me on this. Thanks.

  28. Rick says:

    I spent hours and hours completing part 2 of the 4 parts of National Board certification and turned in 20+ pages of documents. Guess what I got back from NBC for a grade? You scored a 2.75 out of 4 and a canned computer comment:

    You may wish to provide more consistent and convincing evidence that you set appropriate goals for student learning and connect those goals to differentiated instruction and individual student needs.

    Wow, the National Board, in my estimation, flunked their assessment of my work. I would LOVE to be get paid to grade other people’s HOURS of work and give them some canned computer generated meaningless reply.


    • Jenna says:

      I totally agree Rick!!! If we as teachers gave canned comments to our students we would not be giving individual education and as special needs’ educators that is one aspect we are expected to do. If we waited an entire 8 months to give them feedback, we would be fired within the first month! After hours and hours of work, knowing that I am a very good teacher and reach my students, know them well, and allow a safe and structured place for my students to learn, I’m EXTREMELY disappointed in the canned comments – too bad NBTC doesn’t have to report to anyone!

  29. Gwendolyn Nixon says:


  30. Moira says:

    I am currently scheduled to take the test for the first component. I will be testing for English, early adolescence. I have been exploring ways to study for this daunting exam, but so far have only read about books that are sold on Amazon with negative reviews and also Facebook pages, which does not appeal to me as I have zero social media and don’t plan on starting to for this process. Can you give me any tips on where to go and how I can study effectively for this test? Which by the way, they never even told me how long it will take, even though it is a timed test.

    • Hi Moira,

      My name is Holly and I work for Cult of Pedagogy. I jumped over to the NBCT Facebook group and asked these questions, and the first response came right away! Here’s what we got back:

      “Look at the component 1 info for your area. There should be some sample exercises and scoring rubrics. Also, look at standard 2 and read carefully. When you schedule the test, it should tell you how long each section is but that info should also be in the component 1 materials.”

      Hope this helps!

  31. Phillip Wrigley says:

    I just submitted my final component! This was a tough process to go through while being Dad to a toddler, but it was worth it. Thank you for the great discussion of the challenges of the NBCT process.

  32. Robert says:

    First of all, I just found out I passed my first attempt with a score of 110, which is the lowest score you can have. This was after taking a NBCT grad class at a local university, completing components with board certified teachers, working with an online group of other certified teachers, goggling the beejesus out of everything and with a friend going through the process as well. A test that regularly only passes an average of 40-50% of its students is ridiculous. If every test we gave only that many students passed, we’d be on probation and job targets. As quality teachers we would look at the test and our teaching, fix it, reteach, reassess and make changes accordingly. This is not the case. Either the test is too hard or the candidates too stupid. And I know for a fact, it’s NOT the latter. I know I am a good teacher. My friend who took the class and submitted with me, did not pass. She is by far a harder working, effective teacher than I. She is top in the district and has won multiple awards. After reading the standards for an “accomplished teacher” in the class, I actually cried when I got to my car. What a failure I was; the kids deserved someone, anyone that wasn’t me. If this is supposed to be the ideal, that was in no way stated in the copious documentation. I know they need evidence since they are not here to watch us, but if you have/are taking this you know the questions repeat themselves and there are only so many ways you can say the same thing again. I was told that “this is what they are asking, but this is what they really want.” I would write my paper and answer those questions, and the certified teachers teaching my class, who had completed mentor training via NBCT, told me that, that was not what the questions “really” wanted. Write it again. It was maddening. I was so flustered, I got all the work done, paid for all the components, gathered all my evidence and then choked and failed to turn it in. Just threw $1200 dollars down the drain. Even though I knew I was a fantastically good teacher, I knew that if I did not pass, even though passing in one year your first time was against the odds, an epic accomplishment, I’d feel like a colossal failure. And now I had just done that. When I opened my scores and saw I passed I was so happy! Elated even. Then I started looking at my scores and realized I didn’t do well at all on two of them, ok on one, but it was the content that I rocked it. I know my stuff inside and out apparently. If not for that, I would have failed. I’d be humiliated and probably wouldn’t have tried again. God, can you imagine NOT passing, a second time? I would not see it as being tenacious, I would see it as being even more of a failure. So now I sit here and instead of feeling joy at passing a test most will fail, I find it bittersweet. Yeah I passed, but was told I wasn’t that good. I mean, I squeaked by having what would be the equivalent of a D-. Recently the entire process was overhauled, but if less than half your candidates are failing, it’s NOT them. It’s YOU. Maybe I am just being a baby and over dramatic and should be proud and grateful that I passed. Maybe it’s like getting a brand-new car free, but complaining it’s not the right color. I dunno. To all that are or will be taking Boards, I wish you the best of luck. And if you fail, know you are better than that. I know you are.

    • Hi Robert!

      You and your colleague, like countless other highly effective teachers, worked incredibly hard toward receiving Board certification. Anticipating the results I’m sure is quite stressful — and to not get the kind of feedback you expected can certainly be disheartening. It’s hard to see a colleague, who you know is a talented teacher, not qualify; doesn’t seem quite fair. Although I’ve not personally applied for certification, from what I understand, there are a ton of factors to be considered — each one having its own purpose. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to read through the post and the many valuable comments others have submitted; reflecting upon the process and all that it’s brought to their practice seems to have been incredibly rewarding — sometimes moreso on multiple tries. I too hope in the end, you’ll find that the process made an impact on your teaching and the way kids learn. Thanks for sharing and congratulations!

  33. Wanda Milliman says:

    I love being a National Board Certified Teacher! I certified in 2010. Today I am working on renewals and of course getting distracted. I came across your website and was excited to read about the journeys.

    Yes, I believe our children deserve to be taught by a National
    Board Certified Teacher. Every child, in every classroom, in every state across America. Recently a Principal who became a PhD was taken back by this strong belief. She felt I was putting down those that decided to become Doctors instead. She was truly hurt. But I still feel that if you want to be the best teacher you can be, you need to become certified. Becoming a Doctor opens doors to become a Principal, Supervisor, and/or Administration. My life long goal is to be the best TEACHER I can ever be. I may go for a PhD one day, if I want to move out of teaching. But right now, I want to teach and light the fire of problem solving in the gifted high schoolers I have the joy of teaching. Right now, I want to keep the epitome of teacher certifications, my NBCT status!

  34. Heidi Gustafson says:

    Thank you for sharing this post on this certification. I’m in my 8th year of teaching, but really don’t know much about this. I’m not sure if my district encourages this certification or not. I appreciate that this is aimed at teachers who want to be better teachers!! I do not want to move on to administration, but I DO want to be better for my students and within our community! I will definitely be looking further into this avenue. I just have to finish my Masters program first, 9 months to go!

  35. Alisa says:

    Thank you Jennifer. Your articles and resources are wonderful! Wondering about the renewal process. Is the cost and process of maintaining NBCT iworth maintaining the credential? My initial experience was challenging and transformative in large part because of incredible mentors and a highly supportive cohort and community. Ten years later my teaching context has changed and wondering if adding an endorsement would be a wiser professional step. I’m currently teaching in a state that doesn’t recognize or support the process and feeling torn as I approach this professional cross road. Thoughts, advice and experiences much appreciated. Respectfully, Alisa

    • Hi Alisa,

      If you’ve not yet joined Jenn’s NBCT Support Facebook community, click here and scroll to the end of the post. This would be a great question to post in the group – I’m sure people will jump in and share their insights.

  36. Debra Lynne Bucchianeri says:

    I was wondering why you chose NBCT over something like NASET’s B.C.S.E?

  37. Jay Fitzgerald says:


    I’m eager to apply for certification but am worried that I because of the setting in which I teach, I would not make a good candidate.

    My school is a turn around school that may very well be “closed” within the next 2-3 years; my school deals with high poverty, high truancy, low student engagement, low standardized achievement, high suspensions, etc.

    Should I wait to pursue certification until … I begin working somewhere else?

    • Hi Jay,

      We suggest that you go to the post, scroll down, and click on the link to join the NBCT Support Facebook Community. People are always jumping in to help – you should get some good advice over there. Good luck!

  38. Harrison Symonds says:

    Nice! The data I got past this blog has truly caused me in understanding this XXX That was something, I was frantically searching for, fortunately I discovered this at the perfect time.

  39. Gabrielle Saurette says:

    Question: what happens to your videos if you don’t pass? Does NBPTS still have rights to them? Are they still included in their research and video platforms? Do you get your rights back if you don’t pass? URGENT. Thank you.

    • Hi Gabrielle,

      My suggestion is to go to the post and scroll down to the end. There you’ll find a link to join our NBCT Support Facebook Community. There are so many people in the group who are happy to help in a timely manner.

  40. Shar Sanders says:

    I am currently working on my first component (Component 2) and I keep getting frustrated. Sometimes I am motivated to work on it, and sometimes I’m not. My state does pay NBCT a yearly stipend for being certified. But the process just seems so confusing at times. I would like to move into an administrative role one day (Assistant principal, district coordinator, etc), so I have also considered getting an EdS degree in educational leadership. My fees for starting my first component was covered by a scholarship. Which do you think would be more beneficial for my goals in the long run, NBCT or EdS?

    • Hi Shar,

      Have you checked out our NBCT Support Facebook community? If you scroll down to the bottom of the post, you’ll find a link. I’m thinking there may be people in the group who will be able to help you out with this.

    • Calita James says:

      Definitely, the Ed.S with an emphasis in Administration would better serve you than getting the NB, if you are looking to get into admin. Administration job requirements would need a certification in administration. The NB affords you the “pat on the back” as well as the added compensation that some states.

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