National Board Certification:  Is It Worth It?

Image Courtesy of Stephen Luke

Everybody needs a little motivation now and again.  Well, here’s yours, if you want it.  Is going through the process of National Board Certification worth it?  Absolutely.

I’m currently in the midst of this incredible professional development opportunity for educators.  I’ve completed all of the portfolios/assessments to earn certification as an Early Childhood Generalist, and am just awaiting my scores.  Fingers crossed!  I’m hoping for the best, but if I don’t make it through the first time around, I’m confident that I’ll achieve it within the three years provided.  That’s one of the great things about National Board Certification.  If you fall short of a passing score, you can pick and choose what part(s) you’d like to redo.  It’s not like you have to do the entire shebang over again.  Thank goodness.

This process is certainly no cakewalk, though. It’s tough, time-consuming, and even tedious.  However, it is definitely worth it if you see it to the end.  Some of the benefits are as follows:

  • It elevates and empowers your teaching.
  • It advances student learning and achievement.
  • It enhances your professional marketability, opening doors to new leadership opportunities.
  • It leads to notable financial gains, as most districts and states offer salary incentives.

I know that last bullet probably made your ears perk up.  There are not a lot of ways to make an extra buck as a teacher.  However, earning National Board Certification could be the best investment of time and money that you make.  As of last year when I started (2013), it cost $2,565 to embark on the journey.  My school district paid for half of it and the other half came out of my pocket.  However, when I certify (notice I said when and not if !), I will be reimbursed that money.  In addition, I will receive a $5,000 award from the Virginia Department of Education just for completing it, and then approximately $5,000 extra per year from district/state incentives for the ten years of the license.  It makes me eligible to receive another extra $1,000 per year through our school district’s Career Teacher program, too.  Plus, it covered all of my required professional learning points for the year.  Math isn’t really my forte, but it sure seems worth it to me!  🙂

So, what exactly is National Board Certification?  Until a couple years ago, I had no idea it even existed.  I think a large percentage of teachers don’t know about it or view it as this daunting task that isn’t feasible for the typical classroom teacher who has a ‘real life’ outside of an already difficult job.  I personally contemplated doing it for about a year, and then finally just ripped off the band-aid.  I’m so glad I did.

Per the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards web site, it is a rigorous, peer-reviewed process that ensures that Board-certified teachers have proven skills to advance student achievement.  It asks teachers to reflect/analyze student work samples and videos of classroom teaching, as well as prove the impact professional accomplishments have had on student learning.  Teachers must also demonstrate their content knowledge through completion of various timed written assessment exercises.  Expertise is determined by these Five Core Propositions.

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.

Teachers can earn certification in these 25 certificate areas, from PreK-12th grade.

In previous years, teachers were required to complete their portfolios and assessments all in one year.  However, this has just recently been revised, allowing teachers more time to fulfill the process.  The cost to participate has also decreased.


If you’re interested in becoming certified, start by finding out what financial support and/or programs are available within your school division.  Remember, you do not have to do this alone.  There are many groups, conferences, workshops, courses, listservs, books, and web sites to aid in the process (some of which I listed below).  Be selective in determining the right certification area for you, and then take a few responsibilities off your list to free up time in your schedule.  Though I haven’t certified yet, I already feel more confident in my practice and the clear vision of ‘accomplished teaching’ it creates has allowed me to provide better instruction to my students.  If you have any questions, comments, tidbits of advice, or additional resources, please share!

Thanks and good luck!

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