For kicks today, I looked at my site stats. I normally don’t bother checking, because I write here to document my thinking for myself, when I actually write anything. I looked at the search strings that brought people to my blog. Here’s a sample of what I found:
Science, Education, and Science Educationclassroom applications
Archive for the ‘National Board Certification’ Category
In a previous post, I described a scenario in which an administrator clearly did not understand the impact on student learning a teacher must demonstrate to renew National Board Certification. If you’re wondering, too, read on. And if you’re a renewal candidate, here are the files you’ve been looking for.
I’ve answered more than 100 emails this past week, asking for renewal help. As I write, there are almost 30o hits to this blog from searches for national board renewal help – just in the last month. As a result, I’ve decided to post a few items from the Renewal workshops I facilitate and a rationale for renewing.
I had the opportunity to view an important movie this week. I’ve seen it once before. Both times, I watched with a group of the finest educators I’ve ever met. The movie was especially hard-hitting for us because we’ve shared their journey, their tears, and their triumphs.
I’ve just spent an exhausting, invigorating day with 36 of Washington State’s finest teachers.
This group of teachers, all National Board Certified, are in their eighth or ninth year following initial certification. In order to remain NBCTs, they are faced with the task of renewing their certificates. Most look forward to this process with residual fear and trembling from their initial certification experience. As one who completed the renewal process fairly early in its evolution, Washington Education Association asked me to develop a facilitation protocol and workshop to support NBCTs through the renewal process, so I did. And that’s where I was today. Here’s why it’s the best path to growing accomplished teachers. And here’s why it’s the very best renewal, ever.
This post has little to do with science, or education. It has everything to do with organizing my work, my students, and my life.
Every year, as the deadline for portfolio submissions nears, I find that candidates take comfort and amusement at my own story.
Flash back to mid-October 1997. I was in my 9th year of teaching chemistry. I’d also taught biology, physics, and pretty much every math class besides calculus.
The district’s curriculum director appeared outside my classroom door one day. She had a news email (back in those days, teachers didn’t have email accounts, so admins had to print anything they wanted to share) from the Ohio Department of Education. She offered me the paper and pointed to a paragraph near the bottom of the page.
“Here is some information about a new national certificate. Tom (an Algebra I teacher in my building) is going to do it in Math. This is the first year science teachers are eligible. I think you should do it too.”
I took the paper. There was a cost of $2500. Ohio would pay the entire cost except for $65 to enroll. After certification, I would receive $2500 per year, but that’s not all. Enroll now and there would also be professional development and countless opportunities for professional advances. I made the call after school and requested the enrollment package. It arrived about a week later. I spent the better part of a Saturday preparing the paperwork and writing letters to verify employment, education, principal support, identification, etc. Geez, I thought, I am not sure what the point is, but hey, for $2500 a year for 10 years, I’m in. I would soon have a child in college.
Just before Christmas, a box (THE Box) arrived from NBPTS. I placed it next to my desk at home, too busy to open it at that point, and forgot about it. A week or so later, I picked it up while vacuuming and thought that it felt a bit heavy to be a certificate. I opened it; any candidate who’s been certified for more than a few years would recognize the huge 3-ring binder with hundreds of pages of instructions, the means of sending directions before DVD’s and downloads.
The first day back to school after break, I trotted into the curriculum director’s office, dropped the box on her desk with a resounding THUD and said, expletives deleted, “What is THIS????”
Curriculum Director replied, “Yeah, Tom got one of those over break – I guess now you guys have to fill that out, too. You have to make videotapes for it. I got a grant to pay for the videos but Tom is using it all so you’ll have to get creative.”
I said, “I don’t have time to do this! It’s due in June. I have to teach.”
Curriculum Director: “If you don’t do it, I think you have to pay Ohio back the $2500.”
I managed not to choke her; being a teacher, I have a tremendous amount of self-restraint. I did have a few chemistry units that I had been meaning to revise; perhaps this would give me the prodding I needed to polish up those units. So, I “filled it out.” I had no facilitator, no cohort group, no one to read my entries and provide feedback. Tom and I didn’t even really talk much about our work. We just didn’t know what to say. After all, we were in 2 different subject areas. What help could we possibly be to one another?
I set up a template for each part of each entry I had to write and made folders for each entry, in a folder I named, well, I really shouldn’t say what I named it. I had a student who could push buttons to videotape my classes. I read the prompts for each entry and answered them as best I could. I said vocabulary words under my breath – words I hadn’t realized I knew. I revised, described my lessons and videos, I analyzed each lesson at the atomic level, and then reflected until I felt like a giant concave mirror. I re-read everything, editing very little. I Xeroxed and filled in all the cover forms. I put everything in the correct envelope (apparently). I sent it in, all 6 entries (remember this was in the Olden Days.) I signed up for the test on the only day in August that the AYA/Science test was offered. I went to Belize twice that summer with student groups, and returned just in time to make it to the assessment center. I promptly forgot about the whole process until October, when I got a letter saying I should watch for a FedEx package in early November. It would contain my results.
Results? What did they mean, results? Wasn’t I to get a certificate? I called 1-800-22TEACH (again) to ask. No, someone told me, less than half of the teachers who send in a portfolio are certified. WTF? All that work could be for nothing? I thanked the nice lady with all the courtesy I could muster and hung up.
Beginning on November 1, I went home daily at lunch for a few days to check for a package. Nothing. A few more days. Still nothing. I decided not to bother going home anymore. Obviously this whole thing was some kind of horrible hoax. All that writing experience would serve me well as I would most likely be filing reports and claims with the BBB. The day I stopped checking for packages, my chemistry classes were doing the Water of Hydration lab. Odd, how I still remember that. A student office TA appeared at my door near the end of 5th period with a flat FedEx box. I looked at the sender – NBPTS. My fingers trembled and I thought how I would no doubt have to call 1-800-22TEACH once again and ask for an explanation as to why I did not get a certificate. I had sent in damn good stuff.
The class was cleaning up and I wondered whether or not to open the envelope immediately or wait until after school. I later learned that my husband had stopped at home by chance, found the letter, brought it to the HS office, and handed it to my friend Sue the secretary, who then made her TA bring it to me because she and my husband were too afraid.
Not being a patient person, I did not hold that thought long. “Congratulations,” the letter began. I searched the enclosed leaflet for my scores. Was there some mistake? Could this be true? I was certified? Yes indeed. Although there was actually a mistake on AYA/Science score reports that year (the last two assessment center exercise scores were not printed but were included in the total score) I had way more than enough points to certify.
Tom was not so fortunate. He needed to submit twice more as what we now know as an advanced candidate, but he finally certified. Those times, I read his entries and offered feedback. He was an excellent teacher, but had difficulty simply writing to the prompts.
In November 2007, I got word that my renewal Profile of Professional Growth earned renewed status. All that I learned and all that I continue to learn, largely as a result of the National Board process, continues to be the most important professional growth I’ve ever undertaken. Candidates, take heart. Fellow NBCT’s, congratulations.
As we wrap up one portfolio submission cycle and are deluged with masses of new candidates (especially here in Washington State where bonuses are, for the present, possibly somewhat secure) I am compelled to make a list of hints for candidates, from a facilitator’s point of view.
So here I am at a workshop last week with my principal, AP, and 3 colleagues. They are all scrambling to fill out their clock hour forms and grumbling while I am sipping a nice cup of coffee and reading my email. “You know you need to do this clock hour form,” an administrator said to me.
“Thanks. I really don’t need them, ” I replied.
The administrator looked shocked. “How can you not need them?”
“I renewed my national board certificate so in Washington, I’m good until June 2019.”
“You mean all you had to do was sign something instead of doing clock hours?”
The administrator voiced disapproval that when I arrived in Washington from another state, I was immediately granted a professional certificate in Science. Only Science, mind you, even though my out-of state certificate has an old Comprehensive Science which was the equivalent of one major science field and an academic minor in 3 others (Earth and Space, Chemistry, Biology, Physics are the 4 fields) each individual cert endorsement, a separate individual endorsement for all math 7-12, and that I have countless hours in both education and the sciences, at the graduate level, 20 years in the high school classroom, a few years teaching at 2 state universities, and am completing a doctorate in science education in a program that required original research in both a science field and science education, and a dissertation with more rigor than I’ve seen completed by doc students at UW. I did go take the Praxis II in Chemistry ( I didn’t miss any questions) and Biology and Physics ( I got the overachiever certificate thingy.)
The conference was a great learning experience for us as we are beginning to implement standards-based grading. Of course I want to “grade” my students in the most fair way, a way that shows everyone’s alignment with standards, in the most accurate and reliable way possible. In reality, I’ve embraced many of the philosophies presented at the conference in a more informal way. I’ve not “graded” homework for many years, as such. Given a few token points for completing it, because this gives students confidence and a sense of accomplishment, but not ever demonstrated a technique on one day and expected students to hand me a perfectly completed problem set the next day. I’ve said to a kid, “No, you are not ready to take a test today. Let’s do yours tomorrow after we talk.” I’ve taken late assignments with no penalty because of some circumstance, like, “I just didn’t get this one – may I have a little longer to work on this?” I don’t give a rip about tardies or attendance so long as the kid can do what’s expected and doesn’t disrupt class by making a grand entrance (yes they have to come in on their own to make up labs.) I’ve marked different assignments “no count”when completing the assignment didn’t seem to impact the student’s real learning and mastery of a standard. I could go on …….
We can’t fix what’s going on in education right now just by changing our assessment methods. It takes a deeper approach, beginning with the engagement of students and holding them accountable for their learning. The learning certainly takes place at a different pace for different students, each student benefiting from different approaches to the standard to be mastered. Although I saw in almost every presentation at the conference that it was important for students to know their learning targets, where they are in the progression of that learning, and how to get to mastery level for each target standard, I don’t think my principal saw that. I think she truly believes that if we just allow late work into infinity and don’t include a mark of zero, ever, that grades will look good and students will be “successful.” I wholeheartedly disagree. Fair assessment is essential and as with my entire teaching practice, I am always looking for a better way – but if there is no learning, what is there to assess?
Apparently, although we as NBCTs attempt to educate our administrators about the certification process and how valuable it is in shaping our practices in ways that lead to above average gains in student learning, we still have work to do. We’ve talked and are not sure that we like the direction our administrators are taking – administrators who were not strong educators and who have no real clue what good teaching IS – and are going underground with our efforts; grassroots, if you will. My plan is to get together a group of NBCTs in my district for some discussion, and I have a few plans in mind. I’ll let you know how it goes.