Go For the Gold: What You Need to Know About National Board Certification

A school librarian provides information and tips for completing the National Board Certification process, which goes beyond what states require of educators and bills itself as the “gold standard.”

image of NBCT logo (disk) being raised to the sky by two abstracted figures, with fireworks in the sky framing the logo


You’ve probably heard the acronym NBCT, but how much do you know about the process? When I told people I was working on National Board Certification, they had a lot of questions. While it’s a national program for teachers and educators, few people know what certification involves.

The NBC process goes beyond what states require of educators and bills itself as the “gold standard.” The process has four components—three portfolios and a test—that can be completed over multiple years. You must attempt all four in three years and have five years to certify if you retake any.

COMPONENT 1: Content Knowledge is a 2 1/2–hour test with about 45 multiple-choice and three essay questions. You have 30 minutes to write each essay after the prompt appears.

COMPONENT 2: Differentiation in Instruction asks you to demonstrate how you plan and modify instruction for diverse learners. You provide student work samples, other evidence, and a written commentary.

COMPONENT 3: Teaching Practice and Learning Environment requires two 10- to 15-minute videos of different lessons and instructional formats, a four-page analysis of each video, and supporting evidence.

COMPONENT 4: Effective and Reflective Practitioner, focusing mainly on assessment, requires a 12-page written commentary and additional evidence.

You can register and start on the components between May and February, but you don’t have to pay until the end of February. The testing window for Component 1 is March–June, and you submit portfolio components by mid-May. Next, assessors read and score each portfolio. These are converted into a weighted scaled score, with Components 1 and 3 given more weight. Results are available in December.

[Also read: "SLJ Summit Takeaways: Tips and Ideas from Panels and Breakout Sessions"]

According to National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, 3,571 new candidates were certified in 2023, bringing the total to 137,015. Only 38 of those newly certified were in Library Media, creating a total of 3,421 NBCT librarians.* Certification is active for five years. To extend it, you must complete the Maintenance of Certification.

I can think of three main reasons why people become NBCTs: To challenge themselves professionally and refine their teaching practice; to improve their CV; and to earn more money. Twenty-eight states provide compensation for achieving certification. Most are bonuses over several years, but some states, like North Carolina, give salary increases. Some also provide support for certification fees; check with your school district. Virginia provides a $5,000 stipend for the first year and $2,500 for the next four.

Money was a motivator for me but not the biggest. Working toward certification was incredible professional development. In August 2022, my county advertised that NBCT fees, $475 per component, were eligible for tuition reimbursement. I took this as a sign for me to dive in. I did all four components in one year and achieved certification the first time. Still, I underestimated how time-consuming and challenging it would be. I devoted 10 to 15 hours a week from September to March—and all of winter break—to planning, writing, and revising.

Even though I’d given it my all, there was no guarantee I’d certify the first time. But when I logged in to check, fireworks exploded on the screen before I opened the score report. I felt so many positive emotions—happiness, excitement, validation—but I’d say relief was the most prominent.

So, will you start the NBCT journey to see fireworks in your future? I promise you, it will be worth it.

Maura Madigan is a librarian and author.


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