Becoming a National Board Certified teacher (NBCT) is not the easiest of tasks. Candidates looking to obtain the advanced teaching credential must dedicate about 300-400 hours to the process throughout one school year, in addition to their regular classroom responsibilities.
The certification process is tough enough, but imagine going through it while expecting your first child, as was the case with Silvia Carrillo-Salgado, a Spanish teacher at Whitney Young.
Carrillo-Salgado began pursuing certification during the fall of the 2009-2010 school while pregnant with her daughter Juliana. Her entire board certification portfolio was due in April of 2010, but Baby Juliana had other ideas. Carrillo-Salgado gave birth in February, earlier than expected. Her shift of focus to being a new mom caused her to miss the minimum requirement score of 275 by just four points.
However, in the 2010-2011 school year, she finished the portion she left incomplete the previous year and earned her NBCT status. “At first I thought about not going back, and said I wasn’t going to put myself through the stress,” she said. “Only I’d gotten so far in the process already; I wanted to finish.”
National Board Certification was created by The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, a nonprofit organization founded in 1987 to advance the quality of teaching and learning by developing professional standards for accomplished teaching, creating a voluntary system to certify teachers who meet those standards and integrating certified teachers into educational reform efforts.
Its five core propositions focus on a commitment to accomplished teaching, strong content knowledge and the ability to reflect upon one’s practice. There are 25 certificates available in 16 subject areas, ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade, including core subjects like English and mathematics as well as electives like art, music and physical education.
The proof of the effectiveness of National Board Certification is in the numbers. The 2008 National Research Council Report found that students taught by NBCTs make higher gains on achievement tests than students taught by non-NBCTs. More than 80 percent of our Nationally Board Certified teachers report that becoming certified is the best professional development they have experienced in their careers, while more than 90 percent state that it had a measurable impact on student engagement.
Rachisha Williams confirms that National Board Certification is unparalleled in terms of professional development. The Paul Revere Elementary third-grade teacher became board certified in 2011.
“Going through the process leads you to reflect more on how to do things better,” she said. “It makes you recognize the things you do in the classroom, and why you do them. And it forces you to try to justify why you do certain things.”
Becoming board certified complements, but does not replace, a state’s teacher license. It is valid for 10 years, and renewal candidates must begin the renewal process during their eighth or ninth years as NBCTs.
For Amber Henderson, who just entered her third year as an English teacher at Wendell Phillips, the process of becoming board certified helped her take advantage of the data-driven culture at the school. She became a NBCT earlier this year. “The process caused me to think deeply about my practice and provided more meaning to that data,” she said.
There are three basic eligibility criteria to becoming board certified: have a state teaching certification, a bachelor’s degree and three years’ teaching experience.
It’s the process that Carillo-Salgado says is “intense.” It consists of four portfolio entries that each includes an 11-15-page written commentary. Two entries include videos of student-teacher interaction, one discusses how the candidate has grown professionally as a leader, learner and collaborator with communities and families, while another focuses on examining student work over time.
“You need to be good with time management and working on deadlines,” Carillo-Salgado said. “The biggest challenge is pacing oneself.”
Williams agrees that the task was daunting, but ultimately rewarding. “It really tested my abilities,” she said. “Whatever you think about teaching, it makes you really have to sit and rethink.”
The hard work comes with its benefits: National Board Certification is recognized in most states, preventing the need for a moving teacher to obtain a teaching certification in another state. NBCTs at Chicago Public Schools also net a stipend upon finishing – those who became board certified in the 2011-2012 school year received $1,750 – and their earning potential increases for the rest of their careers.
Carillo-Salgado said she recommends every teacher become a NBCT. “The process opened my eyes to my own teaching practice,” she said. “I now look at my classes and students a different way, and for the better. For any teacher who never wants to stop learning, it’s a great process to go through.”
The application deadline has recently been extended to October 30 (or when the state of Illinois hits 750 total candidates). This year, CPS teachers can be eligible to receive $2,000 from the state of Illinois toward the total cost of National Board Certification, which is approximately $2,565.
For more information about National Board Certification, visit the NBPTS at http://www.nbpts.org/. For more information on the candidate support programs run by CPS and the CTU, contact Debbie Glowacki, who manages CPS recruitment activities, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lynn Cherkasky-Davis at email@example.com, who leads the CTU Quest Center Nurturing Teacher Leadership program.