Saturday, November 08, 2008

An explanation of National Boards....

I am often asked about my school work. I will frequently refer to it as a thesis, since that is something more people can relate to. This last year of my Master's program is not a thesis, however. At the university I attend, graduate level special education majors have two choices for their capstone, or culmination, year. They can chose to either write a research-based thesis, or complete and submit a portfolio for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. I chose the later option for a number of reasons:
  • both options require a huge amount of effort and work,
  • if I submit a passing portfolio, my certification will change to a Specialist in Special Education,
  • the state of Illinois has passed an unfunded mandate that will pay Nationally Board certified teachers a $3000/year stipend (meaning, teachers get the money if it is available),
  • the portfolio required directly relates to the work I am doing in the classroom and will directly benefit my students, which is the reason I went back to school in the first place,
  • if I successfully certify, I will be able to "mentor" teachers going through the process and receive payment for that work through the state, meaning more money to be made in the future.

So, there are a number of reasons that I chose this option. It has been a difficult process, as writing for the National Board portfolio is much, much different than writing research papers. The process began this summer with learning to write in that style. I am led through this process by an incredible woman and supported by my classmates. We met this summer to begin learning the process and writing our first entry. This fall, two more entries must be completed. Then, in the spring, the last entry will be done, and we will submit our portfolios by the deadline on March 31st. Following that submission, we will study for the assessment center exercises, which I will most likely complete at the end of May. Then the waiting game begins....scores are not announced until November or December. So, I will know if my hard work paid off in about a year.

In the mean time, I will graduate with a Master's in Special Education in May. We are required to submit a viable portfolio, but graduation is not contingent on receiving a certifying score on the portfolio or the assessment center exercises. In addition to the time and effort involved, there is a substantial financial investment in the process. In addition to the tuition I have to pay, there is a $2565 application fee that had to be paid just to submit a portfolio. The state of Illinois, in an effort to encourage teachers to go for the certification, provided subsidies of $2000 to help with the application cost.

Here is a link to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards website, if my rambling on was not enough to put you to sleep....


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