I Failed National Board Certification

Okay - I guess it's more reasonable to say that I didn't pass, since I still have two whole years to redo the parts of my national boards process that were below standard.

But holy cow does it suck.

I needed 275 points to pass. I earned 274. One point.

One point that would have saved me hundreds of dollars (when I've already spent thousands) and hours of time (when the process already cost me 120 hours last year).

My initial reaction was a desire to throw up.

National Boards is such a unreasonably intensive process that the idea of having to redo any of it is really hard to accept. And, like a lot of the ways teachers are evaluated, a large chunk of that time is spent doing things that have nothing to do with teaching - e.g. scanning documents, figuring out how to convert one type of file into another so it can be uploaded onto the national boards website, or reading through the hundreds of pages that outline how entries are to be written.

In some ways it is a great example of what authentic assessment should look like. There are lots of rubrics, a whole book of standards to go along with the products candidates are supposed to create, and painstakingly detailed descriptions of the ways candidates are supposed to go about putting their entries together.

In some other ways, the process is lacking. Candidates are not allowed to see exemplar products, and knowing how to write the entries is far more important that actually being a solid teacher in the classroom.

I will redo the parts I need to redo, and wait a whole other year to hear back on whether I'll have to do it all again - which seems silly since any slight improvement on any section of it would lead to a passing score.

But I'm not happy about it.


  1. Me, too. I missed it by 3 points, so you did better than I. I'm hating myself this weekend, and second-guessing everything I did last year. We'll make it, but yes, this sucks.

  2. you can appeal your score to them, and I would at least try, if you were within one point.

    1. I definitely thought about it. Unfortunately, it costs $500, you don't receive a response until after the deadline for paying your retake fees are due, the appeals don't involve rescoring items, you need grounds to prove that some part of the process was unfair, AND most appeals are denied.

      Didn't seem worth it.

  3. Sorry - I failed my first time around as well and know well the frustration. Good luck in this next year!

  4. I first started with the process 9 years ago, but had to quit as I went part time.
    I had never heard of anyone not passing it-- actually many teachers which I never thought would pass, had no problem breezing though it.
    I am wonderfuing if the secondary level is much tougher to pass than the elementary level.

  5. I did not pass the first time around, redid, and passed that time by a wide margin. That was eight years ago, and I'm just finishing up my renewal process right now.
    I am so very torn on this whole process for so many reasons. When I first found out I didn't pass, I was upset, angry, doubtful, and a whole lot of emotions I can't describe. I had joined a cohort group through a local university when I started the process, so, when scores came out, those of us who didn't pass gathered together for camaraderie and advice from the facilitator of our group. This is what we found out:
    1. Those of us who didn't pass mostly worked in low income schools; those who did pass mostly worked in higher income schools.
    2. If we needed to go up a full point on any one entry, we probably were out of luck since very few people could actually do that. Remember, this is what our facilitator told us.
    I researched the passage rate in our state and discovered that about 10% of those with certification taught in the richest district in our state, a district that provided release time and trained videographers for teachers seeking certification. My district, a more struggling one, did neither. Did those from higher income schools pass because of these supports? In addition, each certified teachers receives a $5,000 bonus directly from the state (another $5,000 goes to those in low income schools). That means a district that could already pay its teachers more was getting salary enhancements that the poorer district with lower salaries could not provide.
    Still, I redid what I needed to in order to pass—and jumped by a full 2 points on two different entries (out of 4 points each), in direct contradiction of what our facilitator said. Why? Did I suddenly become a better teacher? A better writer? No, I don’t believe I did. What happened? Well, apparently only one reviewer grades submissions. Did my first reviewer come from a high income, homogenous district and therefore did not see that discussions I filmed in my low income schools with struggling students look different from discussions in his or her own district? That students who are traditionally disconnected to school will pause a little longer before adding ideas, will slouch back in desks at the beginning of discussions, will pepper their comments with qualifiers such as “This is probably wrong, but . . . “ or “I don’t think this is right, but . . . “ even as they give high level commentary and text-based evidence? These students will also use “nonstandard” English as they speak. What does a reviewer who has never taught at-risk kids do with videos that look nothing like a classroom with students with a full command of academic English, with confidence, and with the attitude that says, “Hey, I know I’ll succeed at school because I always have?”
    Now, some may think I’m jumping to conclusions about the assessor, and they may be right. How do I know what the reviewer was thinking? One easy way to find out, one that aligns with all literature about assessment including literature that can be found on the NBPTS website, would be to send candidates the rubrics that reviewers used to evaluate them. That doesn’t happen. Why not? Such a practice—withholding feedback—is antithetical to what we’re supposed to be doing in the classroom.

  6. (continued from previous post) Another interesting tidbit—did you know that entries are not always scored by National Board certified teachers? I know a young woman, a teacher who has never even applied for certification, who spent part of the last two summers assessing portfolios. How is that allowed to happen? Shouldn’t reviewers be certified if they are the ones who grant certification? Oh, and by the way, I recently received an email from Pearson, which now runs the ePortfolio system through which all portfolios are submitted, asking me if I wanted to spend some time this summer as an assessor. The stipend? A bit under $19 an hour. So un-NB-certified teachers earning only a stipend and with no requirement to give feedback are the ones deciding who gets honored or who doesn’t, thereby deciding who gets the bonuses that will come out of state funds? I’m not comfortable with that.
    As I said, I’m in the process of renewing my certificate. Before I registered to do so, I went to the NBPTS website and found two different due dates for materials. I called the site and was told that one of the dates was wrong, obviously. Later, I logged on again, paid my fee, and read all about the ePortfolio system. Then I clicked around on some of the other links and read that (a) my box would be sent to me within a few days, and (b) all materials would need to be postmarked by May 16, 2014. I thought, “Wait, why am I receiving a box if I’m submitting things electronically? And how can I postmark my materials if I’m not sending anything through snail mail?” I called the NBPTS people and was told that that part of the website should have been changed but hasn’t been yet.
    “Um, what?” was the only response I could muster. I asked, “Are there any other instructions that should have been changed but haven’t been yet?” Here I am, spending $1,250 to renew, and I can’t be sure if the information posted on the website is correct. If I follow the wrong set of instructions, I risk not being renewed and losing $50,000 over the ten year life of the certification or up to $100,000 if I move back to a low income school. Where’s the quality control for this organization? If I don’t get renewed, I have to start back at scratch and pay full price of certification again.
    We can all feel good about ourselves when we do get certified, but we really need to question who’s getting the full benefit—students, teachers, or organizations like Pearson?

  7. I was a candidate in 2012 when it transitioned to electronic....I didn't certify. I didn't do any retakes either because I think it's a pyramid scheme with some heavy handed politically connected cohorts. I'm not chasing good money after bad money...be warned! A state attorney general should do some research.

  8. A good investigative reporter should go to work on this, like "60 Minutes" or something. Many teachers are getting bilked out of hard-earned money because those who pass say how arduous yet rewarding it is, and that keeps everyone paying and chasing the carrot. I failed for the third time this year when I received the exact same score and exact same comments as I received previously. I worked my butt off to improve, and when I look at the two entries it is obvious the second one clearly contains more substance and evidence of my teaching. It makes me question the validity of the assessments. Who do they hire to do this anyway? I am an English teacher, and I resent getting answers to questions in emails that have grammatical errors (comma splices, agreement, general punctuation, typographical, etc.) from anonymous people who are consoling me in a condescending manner about not passing.

  9. Just a note, and I realize this is late for this discussion, but I worked in an urban district with no administrative support, and I certified my first time. I spent over 400 hours on the work that year, starting with analyzing the standards the summer before school started, annotating them, making notes of what I already did and researching how to expand my skills to demonstrate what I couldn't do. And I had heard how difficult it is to certify in an urban district. My students spoke nonstandard English in the video. My classroom clearly was in need of repairs (although I had some brightly colored instructional posters and anchor charts up). And a different person scores each component on initial certification, so if you are clear about something in one section and don't repeat it in another section, it might not be as clear to the reader of that other section. Good luck to all who are submitting.


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