“It’s the gold standard,” claims Niesa Halpern, chief financial officer at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). “I’m an accountant,” she explains. “Being a CPA is the pinnacle of my profession. Being a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) 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, demonstrate better comprehension and make learning gains equivalent to an extra month in school. But achieving National Board Certified status can be quite the financial challenge.
To address this, the process has been revised over the past several years, in order to make certification more flexible, efficient and affordable. Teachers can complete the entire certification process in one year, but some choose to do so over several years, completing (and paying for) each of four certification components at their own pace.
Fees and charges
The total cost of earning certification has remained unchanged for several years at $1,900, with each of four components costing $475. There is also a $75 nonrefundable registration fee that must be paid during each assessment cycle. Candidates can pay for and submit each component separately, and completion of the four components can be spread out over multiple years.
While the $1,900 price tag may seem daunting at first, the payback on certification can be huge, depending on where you teach. “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 state 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.”
Some states and school districts have programs dedicated to helping teachers pay for their certification. For example, Maryland provides fee support and annual stipends up to $1,000—and up to $2,000 if you teach in a school that has failed to reach Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) in multiple categories—for approximately 1,000 candidates. A number of local districts provide their own support, up to the entire remaining portion of the certification costs. In Minnesota, more than 60 local bargaining agreements include some form of incentive recognizing National Board Certification or provide financial support for candidates. And the Maine Department of Education provides financial awards equal to the cost of certification on a first-come, first served basis, with some individual school districts also providing fee support.
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Scholarship money may also be available to defray your costs, often from National Board partners. For instance GSK provides scholarships for science teachers pursuing National Board Certification. However, the National Board notes that funding is limited, and that teachers “should not rely” on a scholarship to cover fees.
Still, between local, state, and partner funding, many teachers will find some form of financial assistance available to them. “Believe me,” says Locke. “There’s an infinite number of ways to finance the fee.”
All you need is the will.