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My Final Thoughts
by Elizabeth Scheibl

Our five diarists now have completed both the portfolio and assessment portions of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards teacher certification process. For their final entry of the year, therefore, we asked them to share with the NBPTS and with you their thoughts about the process and how it might be improved to better meet the needs of future candidates.

April 26, 2004

Since finishing the assessment center and mailing off my portfolio, I have taken some time to reflect on the National Board process and to consider how it affected me, both personally and professionally. The assessment center was one area I had concerns about.

The portfolio entries required that I write about and assess what I teach every day; those entries were representative of my strengths as a teacher as well as relevant to whether I am accomplished. The assessment center requirements that I create lessons, make modifications, foster integration of content areas, and set a purpose for curriculum with benchmarks and standards that I couldn't possibly be familiar with because my district doesn't require me to teach those subject areas and/or grade levels, were just ridiculous.

No wonder every past candidate I have spoken to -- and there have been a lot of them -- said they bombed the assessment center portion of the process. We can't all be wrong! I think, when it comes to the assessment center, it's important for the National Board to take into consideration the professional experiences of the candidates and then tailor the process to those experiences. It is very upsetting to think that this one piece of the process -- one that in my opinion is not representative of whether I am an accomplished teacher -- will determine whether I become nationally certified. I have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to fail because of what I did in the assessment center.

I found it extremely difficult to prepare myself for that part of the process. The main difficulty was that I haven't taught all the grade levels covered in the assessment for my certificate area. I am aware that teachers often span many grade levels during the course of their careers; however, to expect that all teachers have had that experience is unreasonable. Because I teach fourth grade in a K-5 elementary school, I felt more comfortable with the curriculum from third and fifth grades.

I know little about the sixth grade curriculum, although that grade also is at the middle school level. In addition, every district, as well as every state, has a different curriculum; the chances that the areas of focus for my state's science curriculum are the same as those in another state are slim to none. So, what specific topics should I brush up on? I understand that National Board candidates are responsible for having knowledge of a wide range of curriculums, but why can't the assessment center tests at least be geared to the grade level at which a candidate teaches? I think, when it comes to the assessment center, it's important for the National Board to take into consideration the professional experiences of the candidates and then tailor the process to those experiences.

I left the assessment center feeling horrible about myself. Having worked so hard and dedicated so much time and effort to completing my portfolio, I found the assessment center portion of the process to be a huge let down. My excitement about completing the process was fleeting. I believe I am a good teacher and I found it extremely difficult to understand how questions that don't pertain to the curriculum or grade level I teach could be used to determine whether I am accomplished or not.

Overall, however, the assessment center was my only real concern. I found the rest of the process to be difficult, but invigorating. It really jump-started my self-reflection and forced me to focus on why I was teaching the things I was. Aside from wanting to have my scores back earlier than next November, I was pleased with the process and found that everyone I came in contact with was very helpful.

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Meet Elizabeth Scheibl

Elizabeth Scheibl received her bachelor's degree in English literature and elementary education from Providence College in May 1990. For five years, she was a resource teacher at Bradford Elementary School in Westerly, Rhode Island. For the past eight years, she has taught fourth grade at the school. Elizabeth enjoys the daily challenges that teaching offers and strives to grow and better herself as an educator.

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