"All Aboard!" for National Board Certification for Library Media Specialists!
by Patty SorensenLibrary Media Specialist, Middleton Elementary SchoolSherwood, Oregon
MultiMedia Schools  • November/December 2001 
One of my favorite stories as a child was The Little Engine That Could. The Little Engine started out with an "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" attitude. By the end of the story due to his perseverance and belief in himself, he wound up with "I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could." One year from now I hope there are hundreds of media specialists across the nation who will be saying, "I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could" after they become the first group of library media specialists to attain National Board Certification for the Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood/Library Media certificate, under development by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. This certificate is for accomplished library media specialists teaching students ages 3-18+ who can demonstrate knowledge of information literacy, instructional collaboration, and integration of technology.

In September 2000 I was thrilled when I was notified that I had been selected to serve on the Library Media Specialist Assessment Development Team. Having read the criteria for selection, I had filled out my initial application the previous June and thought to myself, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can." Prior to our first national team meeting, I did what comes naturally to media specialists: I researched National Board Certification [http://www.nbpts.org]. I wondered how anyone could ever develop assessment activities that would fairly assess the variety of activities of an exemplary media specialist whose roles and responsibilities—our roles and responsibilities vary so much from building to building, district to district, and state to state!

Our first team meeting in fall 2000 helped to acquaint us with the process that we would be shaping. The first National Board Certified teachers were announced in 1994, and the process has been evolving for 7 years. Our introductory session was about the history of the National Board Certification process.

More than 14 years ago, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) proposed to recognize highly skilled teachers with a national certification process, based upon standards for accomplished teaching. The NBPTS is composed of 63 members, the majority of whom are required to be classroom teachers. There are three parts to the board's mission.

Core Propositions
First are the standards for 30 fields of teaching, derived from the five core propositions identified in the National Board's central policy statement, "What Teachers Should Know and Be Able to Do." The five core propositions are as follows:

  1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
  2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
  3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
  4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
  5. Teachers are members of learning communities.

Assessment and Certification
The second part of the mission is to develop and operate a national voluntary system to assess and certify teachers who meet their subject area standards. The National Board Certification process is teacher-centered, with the following requirements:

  • teacher-developed standards
  • teacher-developed assessments
  • teacher-trained assessors
  • teacher-scored assessments
  • teacher majority voice on the National Board
We also learned that the National Board Certification process requires teachers to do the following:
  • assemble portfolios that demonstrate their ability to teach subjects effectively and to manage and measure student learning
  • complete a series of rigorous assessment exercises to demonstrate subject-matter knowledge
  • record samples of their teaching practices on videotape for review by the National Board's teacher evaluators

The third part of the NBPTS mission is to advance related education reforms for the purpose of improving student learning in schools in the U.S. I was sure that this was a mission I could enthusiastically support!

Once our library media specialist team knew the history of certification and the NBPTS, as well as what would be required to achieve National Board Certification, our questions shifted to the specifics of how we fit into this process. I was relieved to learn that there were actually three teams of practicing media specialists who would work on various portions of the library media certification process: the Standards Committee, the Assessment Development Team, and the Training and Scoring Team.

The Standards Committee had already completed standards and had recommended some of the initial portfolio and assessment center specifications. I was well acquainted with Information Literacy Standards, but had only reviewed the NBPTS Library Media Specialist Standards when the standards were released in draft format for public input. We were told that dedicated candidates internalize their content area standards as they work through the activities required for certification, and we were assured that the NBPTS Library Media Specialist Standards were closely aligned with the Information Literacy Standards. I set out to study the standards for my work on the NBPTS assessments.

Assessment Development Team
Once I met my other team members and studied the work of the Standards Committee, I quickly moved to the "I know I can" attitude for my work on the Assessment Development Team. Once this team's work was complete, the certification process would be turned over to a third team for the actual scoring of applicants' materials. Much like a relay team, each media specialist team would do its best work, then pass on the baton to the next leg. The final leg would be for the National Board to carry it over the finish line and recognize the first National Board Certified Media Specialists.

Our Assessment Development Team was charged with developing rigorous portfolio and assessment activities to measure the accomplishment of library media specialists. The activities needed media specialists to put their skills and knowledge on the line as well as to reflect on both the strengths and the weaknesses of their teaching and media center management practices. To make certain that we provided an equitable opportunity for all media specialists, we constantly referred back to the standards for library media specialists. We checked and rechecked our activities to ensure that what we were assessing was valid and that all of the standards in the process were being meaningfully assessed. The Standards Committee continued to meet to review the exercises we were creating for assessment.

All NBPTS assessments consist of two components for all certificates: portfolio and assessment center activities. While the components are required for all certificates, each certificate's activities specifically address the content areas being certified.
Library Media Standards Overview

(for teachers of students 3-18+)

The requirements for National Board Certification in the field of Library Media are organized into the following 10 standards. The standards have been ordered to facilitate understanding, not to assign priorities. Each standard describes an important facet of the art and science of teaching; they often occur concurrently because of the seamless quality of accomplished practice.

What Library Media Specialists KNOW

I. Knowledge of Learners
Accomplished library media specialists have knowledge of learning styles and of human growth and development.

II. Knowledge of Teaching and Learning
Accomplished library media specialists know the principles of teaching and learning that contribute to an active learning environment.

III. Knowledge of Library and Information Studies
Accomplished library media specialists know the principles of library and information studies needed to create effective, integrated library media programs.

What Library Media Specialists DO

IV. Integrating Instruction
Accomplished library media specialists integrate information literacy through collaboration, planning, implementation, and assessment of learning.

V. Leading Innovation Through the Library Media Program
Accomplished library media specialists lead in providing equitable access to and effective use of technologies and innovations.

VI. Administering the Library Media Program
Accomplished library media specialists plan, develop, implement, manage, and evaluate library media programs to ensure that students and staff use ideas and information effectively.

How Library Media Specialists GROW as Professionals

VII. Reflective Practice
Accomplished library media specialists engage in reflective practice to increase their effectiveness.

VIII. Professional Growth
Accomplished library media specialists model a strong commitment to lifelong learning and to their profession.

IX. Ethics, Equity, and Diversity
Accomplished library media specialists uphold professional ethics and promote equity and diversity.

X. Leadership, Advocacy, and Community Partnerships
Accomplished library media specialists advocate for the library media program, involving the greater community.

—NBPTS, 2000

(This overview is available in Adobe PDF format at http://www.nbpts.org/standards/brief/br_library_media.pdf.)

For the portfolio, media specialist candidates will be asked to demonstrate an accomplished level of practice through videotapes of media center lessons, student work, and other materials and commentaries on the instruction being represented. Two of the assignments will include videotapes of the candidate working with students and teachers. Other activities will contain written commentary and instructional materials. Portfolio activities for this first round of media specialist certificates will be released to applicants in early December and are due in June 2002. Applications are available now.

Assessment Center Activities
The assessment center consists of six 30-minute exercises designed to assess the content knowledge and skills associated with best practices in school media centers. These exercises will be delivered by computer at one of the 200+ Prometric Technology Centers throughout the U.S. following submission of the portfolio in 2002. To find an assessment center near your home, check the Web site at http://www.nbpts.org/ or call 800/22TEACH.

As we worked on the creation of these portfolio and assessment center activities, the national team members assembled local teams back in their home states to try out draft assessments. Others on the national team tried out the assessments themselves. We needed to check to be sure that the responses we received reflected what we asked for in our instructions and could be accomplished by media specialists in various work situations from pre-K to 12+. All national team members completed some of the initial assessment center activities, so each of us had first-hand experience with the process.

We continually made revisions as the portfolio and assessment center activities evolved. We could only assess what was in the standards and we needed to make sure that all the standards were assessed. We had to set aside our personal preferences for exemplary library-media practice and use the standards as our measure for accomplishment as we evaluated pilot responses. We learned what portions of the assessment needed adjustment from formative scoring of some of our draft assessments. With guidance from our team leaders, we completed the assessment development on schedule. I'm pleased to report that our portfolio assessment activities were approved this past June, less than a year after we started the development process. I quickly moved into the "I thought I could" mode. Whew!

Beyond satisfying a candidate's own quest for professional development by achieving National Board Certification, other incentives are available. NBPTS provides a number of resources for candidates and others in support of National Board Certification, as well as online access to National Board Certified teachers, candidates, and mentors. The NBPTS wants you to be able to succeed through collaboration with your professional peers. Forty states encourage teachers to seek National Board Certification by offering such financial incentives as fee reimbursements (the fee for the assessment is $2,300) and salary supplements. Florida, for example, subsidizes 90 percent of the application fee and provides teachers who achieve National Board Certification with a 10 percent annual salary increase during the 10-year life of the certificate. Oklahoma provides $500 and 3 days to work on the process, then $5,000 yearly when teachers achieve National Board Certification. Incentives of the various states are listed on the NBPTS Web site. Not all candidates will receive certification on their first try, so NBPTS provides the opportunity to bank scores and retake parts of the assessment for a period of 2 years from the date of initial score notification.

State licensing reciprocity is available in several states, including Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico, North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.

To be eligible to apply for National Board Certification, you must:

  1. hold a baccalaureate degree.
  2. have taught for a minimum of 3 years.
  3. have held a valid state teaching license for those 3 years, or where a license is not required, have taught in schools recognized and approved to operate by the state.
To enter the National Board Certification process for Library Media Specialists, you need to be able to:
  • demonstrate that your teaching practice meets the Library Media Standards.
  • have access to a class with at least 51 percent of the students ages 3-18+ as of December 31, 2001.
  • submit instructional materials and videotapes in English and/or Spanish showing your interactions with your students.
  • demonstrate your ability to collaborate with others in your instructional community to create, plan, and implement learning experiences and assess student learning using a variety of resources.
  • demonstrate your ability to foster literacy in your students and demonstrate your ability to create an inviting and supportive library media center environment that provides equal access to learners.
  • demonstrate effective selection and integration of technologies into the instructional program and foster learner's understanding of the ethical or legal use of information.
  • present evidence of how you impact student learning through your work outside of the classroom as you interact with your colleagues, other professionals and organizations, and students' families and their community.

If you are speculating "I think I can" do this, call the NBPTS and ask for the Guide to the National Board Certification, which includes the application. Or go to the NBPTS Web site at http://www.nbpts.org and download the application. The deadline to apply for the assessment this year is December 1—coming right up!—but you may apply as late as December 31 with a late fee. Once the application and an initial $300 of the assessment fee have been received by NBPTS, you can receive portfolio instructions. In the meantime, you can be reading and internalizing the Library Media Specialist Standards. I can't wait to hear the resounding "I thought I could's" in about a year because I believe you can!!!!

Communications to the author may be addressed to Patty Sorensen, Library Media Specialist, Middleton Elementary School, 23505 Old Highway 99,Sherwood, OR 97140; fax: 503/925-2501; e-mail: psorensen@sherwood.k12.or.us.

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