10 Tips to Help You be a Successful National Board Candidate


My journey as a candidate for National Board Certification for teaching started in the fall of 2012. When I wrote about my initial excitement, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. If and when you decide to start your own journey as a candidate, these 10 tips will help you through the process.

1. Research funding and grants available prior to paying the $2,500 fee.
Depending on the state and district you teach in, there are optional ways to supplement the fee. Visit the National Board website for additional information.

2. Think about which certification fits you best.  
Your certification will be based on the age of your students. The two art certification areas are “Early and Middle Childhood” or “Early Adolescent through Young Adult.” As a middle school art teacher, my certification area was Early Adolescent through Young Adult. Click here for a list of certificates.

3. Read the standards carefully.
Start reading what students are expected to know and how you will demonstrate mastery of these standards.

For Art/ Early and Middle Childhood Standards and Information click here.
For Art/ Early Adolescent through Young Adult Standards and Information click here.

4. Read the portfolio directions thoroughly.
This can be very overwhelming at first, but is worth your time. The directions will tell you exactly what you need to show in each entry. They also will help you as you begin to plan your lessons.

5. Start brainstorming ideas for the lessons you will focus on for each entry early.
Be sure you are referring back to the standards and portfolio directions as you plan.

6. Start video recording right away.
Give students time to get used to having a camera in the classroom prior to the scheduled recording. Using a boundary microphone helps the assessors hear your students.

7. Set aside time each week to write and work.
Communicate your needs with your family and friends. I tried to set aside time weekly to work on my boards. This was sacred time that I set aside to work on whatever entry I was focusing on at that time. In addition to writing and working alone, don’t forget to arrange time with a colleague or a support group. I participated in district and state support classes which allowed me to ask questions and gain reassurance in what I was doing. In addition, it required me to continue to work on my entries in between working sessions.

8. Find colleagues to read your papers.
There are many certified teachers across the country that would be willing to read your papers. All you have to do is ask.

9. Read these books.
 The Annotated Mona LisaThis  is an excellent resource to use as you prepare for your assessments. I highly encourage you to start brushing up on your art history months before you take your assessments.

So, You Want to Become a National Board Certified Teacher?: This book was an excellent resource to refer to when I was writing and editing my papers.

10. Constantly remind yourself WHY you are going through this journey.
Regardless of what happens in the end (whether you pass on the first try or not) you will grow as an educator and will be a more reflective teacher who focuses on student learning.

I successfully completed my portfolio entries by the deadline of May 31st, 2013. I took the assessments in June and have been patiently waiting for my scores. National Board will release scores on or before December 31st, 2013. In the meantime, I do my best to stay positive, and focus on how much I’ve grown as an educator throughout the process. If you’re interested in applying for National Board Certification for Teaching, be sure to watch this video for some up and coming changes in the process.

Have you ever thought about becoming a National Board Certified Teacher? What questions do you have about the process? 

Are you already certified? What tips can you share with AOE readers? 




Cassidy Reinken


This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • Karen

    I have had my National Board Certification for several years. I highly recommend that you accept the offer to have another NBCT read your work. The year I did my National Boards, the wording in one of the sections was not very clear. It asked you to choose “an overarching goal”. I assumed it was a general overarching goal in arts education since there was no reference to a specific list. It was actually a list of goals found on one page in the reference material. My reader already knew there was some confusion about this particular section. I ended up redoing the entire section, because it did not fit into the small list of overarching goals. Even though this was a set back, I corrected it and was able to pass. Another helpful hint is to print a list of words connected to each level on the Bloom’s Taxonomy List. Use these words as you write to show higher order thinking skills.

  • erica

    congrats!!! I’ve been hearing more about this lately and I’m still curious. This is a huge investment of time, energy, resources and you did it! For those of us still wondering about this process what are some of the gains you get when you are N.B.C. teacher. Besides the title can you describe the incentives? Can you move your license from state to state? Do you get a salary bonus? Is it like the former BEST or TEAM portfolio? Where do you apply for a grant to do this? Thanks:)

    • marilynpeters

      National Board Certification is basically the highest level you can attain in my state and still stay in the classroom. The best incentive for me was that it made me very conscious of my teaching and improved pay. I have been a NBCT since 2004 and recently went through the renewal process. With National Board Certification you can move from state to state and carry it with you–when you are NBCT in FL you will be NBCT in KY. Getting a salary bonus varies from state to state. In KY you get $2000 a year added to your salary. It really makes a difference especially when you retire. I am not familiar with BEST or TEAM portfolio. Check out the NBCT Professional standards board website. Grants vary from state to state as well.

      • erica

        I love the idea of being able to move from state to state and also the pay increase is a big incentive! THANK YOU! Having just gone through the masters process and loans I can’t imagine taking on more debt with no pay incentive :) Thanks Marilyn!

      • Congratulations on going through the renewal process. Did you find it as challenging as the first time? We received our scores on Saturday and I’m happy to say I passed! I found it ironic because on Sunday we received an email talking about preparing for recertification in 8 years! Seems so far away.

        • marilynpeters

          The challenge during renewal was different. I feel like it made me focus on how being NBCT improved me both as a teacher and instructional leader. This time I reflected on my growth over the past 10 years. I was still nervous, but found that as I reflected on my work those years I had grown into a much stronger teacher and leader in my district and state. It was rewarding and I do recommend recertification as well.

    • The state of Iowa currently offers a subsidy grant paying for half of the $2,500 fee, making the cost only $1,250.
      My district offers a 5% raise.
      The state of Iowa also gives certified teachers $2,500 a year for 10 years.
      So financially there is a huge benefit on top of the fact that the whole process makes you a more reflective teacher who focuses on student learning which in return improves your teaching. I continually find myself thinking of new ways to engage my students and modify my curriculum.
      The best part is you get to create your topics and lessons which are tailored to you. Where I felt my masters wasn’t as aligned with what I was doing at all times. NBCT is all about YOU and your students. You make the choices. Marilyn provided great information below as well!

  • marilynpeters

    Reflect, reflect, reflect!!! As you go through the process make sure you are thoroughly reflecting. If a lesson doesn’t go as planned you may still be able to use it if you are reflecting on what happened in the lesson or what went wrong in it. Readers know that we don’t have the perfect classrooms or students. What you would do differently is as important as what you did in the lesson or it coming out as the perfect lesson.
    Don’t prep the kids for the videoes except to tell them to ignore the camera and behave as they normally do. You also will need to ignore the camera in order to present the best lesson. Again the people that score this are not looking for actors or fake lessons. They want real teachers and students–think of it as school reality TV.
    I do highly recommend the process. It is a lot of work but it is worth it.
    Marilyn Peters, NBCT

    • Thank you for providing some fantastic advice to the AOE readers. You summed it up in the beginning, Reflection is key! Also, I really like how you brought up that they’re not looking for a perfect lesson. In my lesson I had a student who didn’t have permission to be on camera walk right in the camera viewing area, multiple times. Although I panicked because my lesson was “ruined” it ended up working out. I contacted the parents and explained the situation, they gave parent permission and this allowed for me to discuss the student. It ended up working very well in the end. Thank you for sharing Marilyn!

  • Jessica S.

    Hi, I read all comments they are very helpful, can you please let me know how many years it took you to pass NBCT?
    I am retaking 3 sections to improve my score Entry 1/3/4. I am currently writing entry 4. (2nd year, my comments is I needed further reflection).
    I understand that specifics can not be talked about, did any of you use surveys either in paper or electronic for your parents?
    It is so difficult to talk about me in relation to facilitate communication and learning in entry 4, advice on this.

    • Hi Jessica,
      It took me a year to pass. My best advice is to continually reflect on everything you’re doing and saying. In the support class I took they told us to reflect on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, how you know it’s successful, what data supports your tboughts, what will you do when you aren’t successful and what will you do when you are. Also, I encourage you to reflect on how you can improve as the assessors know you’re human. Therefore mistake will happen, it’s how you deal with them.
      Have you read the book, “So, You Want to be a National Board Certified Teacher?” It’s a great resource. I highly recommend you purchase. Also, support classes and certified teachers are great resources. Best of luck, you can do this!

      • blibby

        Hi Cassady,
        I am joining this discussion one year later. After not passing NBPTS after the first year, I participated in a retake. I just got the scores last weekend and I learned that I yet again did NOT pass. I am 12 points short. I am devastated and ready to give up! This is very frustrating and I am starting to regret that I even started this whole procress. I feel like I’m working with a slot machine. I keep on putting money, time and incredible amount of effort into a machine that seems impossible to win.
        I am starting to question the NBPT system. I wonder if the system change since Pearson (Testing Agency) took over National Board Certification?
        The feedback comments on the score sheet I have received are totally lame, generic and not helpful. I don’t know how to improve my score. Clearly I am missing something, but I don’t know what.
        I am struggling with the overarching educational goal. Would you mind sharing what your Ed goal was for Entry 1.

  • Mara Swindell

    Hi! I am in serious need of help for Entry 1 (Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood). I don’t understand where to find the overarching goals for art education. Please help!

    • Hi Mara,
      You will need to create your own overarching goal for art education. Each candidate’s goal is different. I picked a goal I wanted to focus on based off my curriculum. I suggest you pick a goal for a specific grade/class.

      • Mara Swindell

        I planned on using my 8th grade students who created self-portraits. I read below where Karen wrote “I assumed it was a general overarching goal in arts education since there was no reference to a specific list. It was actually a list of goals found on one page in the reference material.” and was confused about what reference material she was referring to. For example, could the goal be that students are able to create the self-portrait that communicates values they hold? Thanks so much for your help!

        • Jenny

          Mara! lol, I was just looking up info to send to you and I saw you had already posted on this site. Take a deep breath, relax. What is your email? -Jenny

        • You might need to specifically ask Karen which reference list she’s referring to… I’m not sure.
          Here is the information I used to create my goal:
          “Setting an Overarching Art Education Goal

          Before you can develop your entry components, you must select an important overarching art education goal. You should be able to describe why the goal is important and appropriate for your students. You should also explain how the design of your instruction contributes to students’ understanding of the goal. Choose a goal and an instructional sequence that are clearly related. This makes for a stronger response than one in which the connection between the goal and the instructional strategies and procedures is less obvious.

          An overarching art education goal must meet at least one of the following criteria:
          ▪ It is based on clear conceptions of how art links students to human experience across cultures, times, and places.
          ▪ It reflects how art education is a central component of an overall education program.
          Caution: It is important to select a goal that is truly central to art education as defined by the criteria above.
          Avoid selecting an instructional sequence that is not clearly linked to the goal.”

          I hope this helps!

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  • Alice

    Hi Cassidy, congratulations on this monumental achievement! I currently teach 4th grade in a school where there is no art program, but my goal to become the art teacher at the high school in our district. Do you know if I should I certify for Early Adolescence through Young Adulthood, or do I have to choose Early and Middle Childhood Art? I have contacted National Board as well as my state, but they keep referring me to each other. Thanks for any information you may have!