Date published: Tuesday, January 04, 2011
By Gregory Taggart
“It’s the gold standard,” claims Niesa Halpern, chief financial officer at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “I’m an accountant,” she explains. “Being a CPA is the pinnacle of my profession. Being a National Board Certified Teacher is the pinnacle of the teaching profession.”
The National Research Council backs up that bold claim with a myriad of studies that demonstrate how students of NBCTs outperform students of non-NBCTs on achievement tests, exhibit stronger writing abilities and better comprehension, and make learning gains equivalent to an extra month in school.
Fees and charges
Out-of-pocket costs to earn Certification include a $65 nonrefundable application fee (due at the time of application) and a $2,500 “Assessment Fee” (due no later than January 31, 2012, unless you participate in an extended payment plan), which includes a $500 “Initial Fee” due on December 31, 2011. Though you may incur some miscellaneous fees, $2,565 is the big nut you need to cover to achieve the gold standard. But depending on where you teach, the payback on that Certification can be huge. “I taught in Maryland when I earned mine,” says Jennifer Locke, senior policy analyst at the NEA. “I earned an extra $4,000 a year for the life of the 10-year certification. That’s $40,000.” On top of that, Board Certification is worth up to as many as 9 graduate credits.
Take advantage of financial assistance
The return on your investment can be even greater if you finance the cost through a variety of federal and state grants programs, loans and scholarships available to teachers. “The first thing I would do is either go to my principal or to my professional development coordinator in my district and say, ‘I know there’s some PD money for me. I’d like to use some of it for National Board Certification,’” Halpern says. “You might even ask for tuition reimbursement money because of the graduate credit option.”
According to Halpern, Title II money is perfect for the job. Ten percent of Title I money is available as well. So are Race to the Top, Title VII and IDEA funds. “They’re all outlined in the Federal Funding Guide,” she says. “In addition, there is money to be had from your state’s subsidy administrator—typically at your state’s Department of Education. If between those 2 options, you are not fully funded, we offer extended payment plans, so you can have an extra couple of months to pay.”
Actually, chances are you will never be fully funded because many states and school districts want you to have some skin in the game to insure that you’re motivated. At the very least expect that $500 “Initial Fee” to come out of your pocket. “That said, the reality is that the majority of candidates in this country have never paid over $1,250,” Halpern says.
That could change, however. Now that states like Washington and North Carolina have introduced loan programs, a sizeable percentage of candidates could end up paying full freight for their certification. “Those states loan you the full $2,500, and you pay it back over time,” Halpern continues.
As in college, scholarship money is also available to defray your costs, generally on a first come, first served basis. Companies like State Farm, Chase, and UPS, and private endowments like the Edward B. Rust Jr. and the Governor Hunt Scholarship Funds stand ready to help qualified candidates. Many of these scholarships are state or certificate specific, reason again to speak with the professional development coordinator in your school or district. “My association paid half of my assessment fee as a scholarship,” Locke says. “Believe me, there’s an infinite number of ways to finance the fee.” All you need is the will.