NBCT: My Experience with Component 2: YA ELA

Assembling Component 2
Considering National Boards? I recommend the process, but you should know what you are getting into. Start early and get organized.

In the spring of 2016 I began pursuing National Board Certification for teaching. I know eventually someone will ask me for my thoughts and advice about that process, so I'll capture them now while the experience is fresh. Because I teach 9th grade, and previously taught middle school for ten years, I decided to do my NBCT in the area of Young Adolescent ELA. (Yes, I also taught 11th grade for six years, but that was a while ago.)

Though some do it in one year, I'm taking two years to complete my NBCT. Last summer, at a small local conference, I stumbled into a conversation about National Boards and happened to find out that my County Office of Education sponsored a support program. I was just in time to sign up. Through that program I got early advice and support to help me understand expectations and deadlines. The amazing staff at the County Office also worked with my district to get me reimbursed for the cost of NBCT components. As each component currently costs $425 (and there are four), this was a huge help.

This year I worked on Component 1 and 2, though not in that order. Component 1 is a test. I took that yesterday, more about that in another post. Component 2 is a collection of student work samples and my written commentary about those samples.

The toughest part of the national boards process for me is the directions. There are a lot of directions. I have to follow them exactly and sometimes it's hard to find that one little detail I know I remember reading somewhere and I spend 20 minutes looking for it because I can't remember if it was in the general portfolio instructions, or the component instructions, or somewhere else. As a result, my copies of my instruction documents are filled with notes and highlights. Print out all of the directions (2 pages to a page can help save paper). Plan to read through them multiple times with a pen and a highlighter. Flag your questions and find someone who has done NBCT to help you answer them. Get a binder and set up separate sections for each component. (Normally papers and binders are not things I regularly use anymore, but for NBCT I was glad to have a binder I could hold on to.)

If I could do Component 2 over again I would not be so quick to identify my two focus students. Instead I'd pick 8-10 possible focus students and begin collecting work from each of them early in the year. You see, in the beginning, I didn't know for sure which pieces of work I wanted from each student. I didn't know what assignments would give me the best evidence, and sometimes a student just didn't have everything I needed in their work. Missing a graphic organizer, being absent on the day of a key lesson, or just not turning in the assignment sometimes happened to all of my focus students. I had a moment of panic early in the fall when a student I thought would be a focus student moved and left our school.

By March I had enlarged my pool to four students and I made a spreadsheet that had student names down the left side and possible assignments across the top. In each cell I described the work I had from that student for each assignment and began to color code. Green for work I could use in my portfolio, yellow for maybe, and pink for things that probably wouldn't work. I needed two reading assignments and two writing assignments for each student. (The blurry lines between which work is about reading and what is about writing, made this even more fun.) So I had seven possible assignments, spread across four students, and different levels of completion and access for each piece of student work. I needed to pick just two students, and just four assignments from each student that would allow me to write the most effective commentary about how I know my students and how I use that knowledge of their skills to inform and differentiate their instruction. (I don't know how people do this without spreadsheets.)

I also needed to create a packet for each student that had a cover sheet for each assignment, the prompt, or assignment sheet, the rubric and the student work. Those packets ended up being 20-24 pages each and it involved some technical hurdles. (I should write another post about that.)

For added fun, the YA ELA Component has some tricky requirements about student's reading responses. Each student must respond to at least one reading that is "non-print," a video, a work of art etc. And each student must have at least one response that is non-print, a video, a work of art etc. Because my student most often create visual work in relation to writing projects (visual memoirs, multi-media projects about academic honesty etc.), I didn't have a project that specifically responded to reading in a non-print format. I had to add that kind of assignment into our Reading the Novel unit. If I had not added that project to that unit in the fall it would have been harder for me to complete my work on Component 2 in the spring.

Things I know now. (Of course I won't get my scores until November, so this advice may be useless.)
Not all of the student work has to be summative work. In several cases I included work that was formative, such as a paragraph in their English Journal, or an essay early in a unit that was a rehearsal for a later essay. Focus students should be different enough from each other to show that you differentiate your instruction. While I was busy avoiding the highest and lowest students in my classes, I didn't notice that two of my early focus students were fairly similar to each other.

Though NBCT has taken a lot of my time and mental energy this spring, I know the process is worth it. I think my favorite thing about NBCT is that it is always about the teaching and the learning. The focus is on the student work and the instruction that lead to and followed that work. No where in this process am I asked about awards I've won, books I've written, or anything else about me. My portfolio is scored anonymously, with only my candidate id number as an identifier. The process has integrity. When I can say that I'm a National Board Certified Teacher that will mean that I have met rigorous standards of instruction and reflection.

For more information about NBCT their website is an excellent place to start.
http://www.boardcertifiedteachers.org