National Boards: Assessment Center

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National Boards ACI recently received an email from a reader who asked about preparing for the School Counseling Assessment Center Exercises.  I remember when I was preparing for the assessment exercises.  I have never considered myself to be the best test taker, so I was somewhat stressed…Okay, I was VERY stressed!  Because of this, I signed up to take the assessment in June so I would have the month of May and at least half of June to prepare.  After writing all school year and submitting my four entries before the March 31st deadline, I gave myself the month of April off to recoup.

There were no “study guides” available (at least none that I was aware of) at the time I was a candidate for NBPTS.  I’ve searched to see if guides are available now, but I haven’t turned up anything.  (If anyone knows of one, let me know!)  Therefore, I used the Assessment at a Glance provided on the NBPTS website.

There are six 30-minute assessments.  They are completed on a computer with the countdown clock on the screen so you’ll know how much time you have left to work.  You are given three assessments in a row, given a ten minute break, and then you’ll finish the other three.  The following areas are addressed on the assessment and are taken directly from the Assessment at a Glance document:

Exercise 1: Human Growth and Development-  In this exercise, you demonstrate knowledge of a specific human growth and development theory, and then apply that knowledge to a given developmental stage.

Exercise 2: School Counseling Program-  In this exercise, you demonstrate knowledge of the development, implementation, and management of a school counseling program.

Exercise 3: Diverse Populations-  In this exercise, you use knowledge of counseling diverse populations to apply counseling skills, techniques, and interventions to a student situation.

Exercise 4: Theory-  In this exercise, you demonstrate knowledge of a counseling theory and theorist by describing the theory and applying it to a school counseling issue.

Exercise 5: Data and Planning-  In this exercise, you demonstrate the ability to interpret and analyze the data provided, make appropriate recommendations for school improvement, then discuss the rationale and steps for implementation of the recommendations.

Exercise 6: Collaboration –  In this exercise, you assess a student concern, then discuss the legal and ethical procedures and medical concerns to consider while creating a plan of collaboration to help the student succeed.

Again, I did not have a study guide, so pulled out text books and notes from graduate school to help me prepare for areas such as Human Growth and Development, Theory, and Diverse Populations.  I had an excellent Theories professor.  I remembered her giving us a template to assist with studying all of the key figures in counseling theory.  I found the chart in my notebook and created one to use for my assessment preparation.  On the chart, for each theory, you will list the key figures, key concepts, time orientation, therapeutic goals, therapeutic relationship, and a few other areas.  Using this was very helpful for me when reviewing the theorists.  Click HERE to download a copy of the chart.  I wrote in the boxes.  However, if you would like the Word document to manipulate it yourself, just contact me, and I’ll be happy to forward it to you.

I studied the two sample exercises for School Counseling Program and Diverse Populations.  Use those examples!!!  They are very helpful.  Think about how you would respond to each of the prompts.  These samples are on pages 6 and 7.  If you are familiar with and use the ASCA National Model, you should have no problem with Exercise 2: School Counseling Program.  You’ll want to refresh your memory about counseling different cultures for the Diverse Populations exercise.  I reviewed my grad school notes from my multicultural counseling course to prepare for that assessment.

Also,  be sure to brush up on those key Human Growth and Development theories.  Just as it says above, be ready to apply the theory to a given developmental stage.

I personally did not do any lengthy preparation for the data and planning assessment.  I knew how to analyze data, so I viewed that section as one where I would take the information and create a plan from it which is what I did and was fine.

Knowing my four entries weighed the heaviest and that I had test anxiety, I made sure I did the best I possibly could on my four written entries because not scoring well on one of those would have meant not certifying.  The six assessments count 6.67% each for the overall score, so that gave me some wiggle room.

My One Fiasco

If I could have screamed, I would have!  I knew that I could cut and paste as necessary in the assessment.  I did cut and paste here and there.  At one point, I cut an entire answer to a prompt, but when I went to paste it…you guessed it…it was no where to be found!!  I had maybe 5-6 minutes left and had to re-create that answer from scratch.  Talk about STRESS!!!  I got through it, but I know my first answer had to have been much better.  Be careful with cut and paste, you guys!!

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You can also follow my TpT Store to keep up with my latest products and freebies.

National Boards: Understanding Entry 3

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National Boards Entry 3Entry 3 focuses on Maximizing Academic Learning.  For this entry, school counseling candidates are required to provide academic counseling to an individual student.  A maximum of 12 written pages, one video recording, and an academic intervention plan must be submitted with this entry.

Eight of the standards must be represented in Entry 3.  I explained how to incorporate the standards into your writing in my post Planning for Entry 1.  Doing this is important so be sure to refer back to that post if you still are not clear about how to do it.

I’ve heard many candidates consider this entry to be the toughest one to pass.  Don’t look at this way.  Approach this entry just as you have the others.  Make sure to provide sufficient evidence for your assessors.

Choosing a Student for Academic Counseling

There are no age requirements for the student you wish to choose for this entry.  I chose a 5th grade student for my entry.  I felt as though this was a good age to receive academic counseling since our 5th graders are preparing to transition to middle school.  Since I worked with a 5th grade teacher for my career lesson,  I collaborated with her in order to find a student in her class to provide individual counseling.  We discussed several students in her class.  It was important to find a student who would not only benefit from academic advisement, but who would also be receptive to it and do his or her part to make improvements.

It is a good idea to use specific data to support your selection.  You can include this data in your initial description of the student.  Data may include report cards, assessment data, past test scores, or any other documentation the teacher has about the student.  The teacher will be able to tell you exactly where the student needs assistance and what goals he or she would like the student to reach.

You can also conduct your own surveys once a specific goal is chosen.  These results can also be used during the session.  I met with my student prior to our planning session to complete a couple of surveys in order to get an idea of how he learned best and how he approached test taking.  Use the information you’ve gathered from the student’s teacher to guide you in any pre-assessing you choose to conduct.

Video Recording

Your video is limited to a maximum of 15 minutes.  You will need to make sure to address each of the required areas in this short period of time.  As I’ve said in a previous post, take a moment first to look at the questions in section 2 (Video Recording Analysis).  Here, you will learn exactly what the assessor will be looking for during the video segment.  You’ll need to show various examples of your work including how you engaged the student in meaningful discussion in regard to his or her need for academic advisement, how you encouraged active participation from the student, and counseling skills and techniques used just to name a few.

When thinking about your counseling techniques, remember what the assessor will see while watching the video.  Think about your seating placement.  How does it look if you and the student are across from each other at a table?  If sitting at a table, you’ll want to utilize a corner so you are close enough to work together yet still able to maintain your own space.  Think about your non-verbal counseling skills here as well.  Be sure to convey a warm, respectful, and genuine tone.

This is a good time to begin refreshing your memory about counseling theory.  You will need to explain your knowledge of human growth and development and academic theories of motivation and skill development.  Additionally, you will need to refer to the theoretical background for the counseling skills and techniques you implement throughout the session.  Remember also- the assessment piece of the NBPTS process includes your knowledge of theory.  It doesn’t hurt to begin reviewing the major theorists now.

You can read Pointers for Videos if you need to know more about what is expected in your video recording.

Academic Intervention Plan

The intervention plan should be created collaboratively with your student.  Make sure this is exhibited in your video segment.  The assessor should hear both your and the student’s input for the creation of the plan.  As with any plan, you’ll want to include a goal and the steps you will put in place in order to reach the goal.  Be sure to set high yet attainable goals for your student.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  There are always so many things I could say in these NBPTS posts.  However,  the posts would go on and on and on…  If you have specific questions, please email me through my contact page.  If I find a recurring theme in my emails, I will try to address it in another post.

National Boards: Entry 2- Exploring Career Development

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National Boards Entry 2School counselors must deliver a classroom lesson about career development for the second entry for NBPTS.  This entry requires a video segment that is not to exceed 15 minutes.  You can read Pointers for Videos if you need to know more about what is expected.

Nine of the standards must be represented in Entry 2.  I explained how to incorporate the standards into your writing in my post Planning for Entry 1.  Doing this is important so be sure to refer back to that post if you still are not clear about how to do it.

Entry 2 requirements include a maximum of twelve pages of written commentary, the video recording I mentioned earlier, and a maximum of seven instructional materials related to the lesson.  Find a classroom teacher who is willing to allow you to use his or her class for the purposes of this entry.  Send the required student release forms home with students in advance.  You will want to know who does and does not have permission to be featured in your video recording.  Once you know this, you can create a seating arrangement that allows students without video permission to sit in an area behind the camera and still participate in the lesson.  These students can still answer questions and be heard during your recording.

As you begin to think about the lesson you will present to your students, be sure to include the following points as stated by NBPTS:

  •  show your ability to explain and illustrate an important career development topic;
  • actively involve and engage the students;
  • focus on concepts and problems that are challenging and appropriate for the class;
  • engage students in critical thinking and problem solving; and
  • show your ability to use appropriate technology to enhance student learning of the career development topic.

My advice is to be creative.  Look for several career lesson ideas and activities and use them to create a lesson that addresses each of these areas.  Just finding a career lesson from a book on your shelf isn’t enough.  Think about what you are being asked to demonstrate and create a plan to do just that. To create my lesson, I read through each of the questions for the written commentary and listed parts of questions I would have to answer.  Examples include:

  • Student competencies you plan to address
  • Traditional and nontraditional careers
  • Community involvement
  • Video:  Determine students’ comprehension of the concepts associated with the understanding of the career development topic.
  • Video:  How will you provide constructive feedback?  (You will need to include your response(s) to students’ questions.)
  • Video:  How will you demonstrate fairness, equity, and access for all students during your lesson?
  • Video:  How will you use technology?
  • Video:  Show two different student interactions during the lesson where they are engaged in active problem solving or critical thinking.

In 2008, I used Paws in Jobland to incorporate technology into my lesson.  At the time, our classrooms did not have smart boards or iPads like we do today.  So, I used an aver key and connected my laptop to the television in order to share that portion of the lesson with the entire class.  Your entry isn’t all about the technology, you just need to show evidence of how you included it during your lesson.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with this piece of the entry.  Just be sure to show some form of it during your video recording.

Also, be sure to think about the career theorist(s) your lesson is based on and be ready to explain how the theory(ies) guided your lesson.

The instructional materials you are required to submit must relate to your video recording.  The materials are not limited to worksheets.  They can include screen shots from websites you used or Power Point presentations.  Your candidate ID number must be present on each page, and pages should be sequentially numbered.  Make sure your content is on one side of each page.  If you use both sides, it is considered to be two pages.  If you use student work samples, make sure names are not included.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Let me know if you have any further questions about Entry 2.

National Boards: Pointers for Videos

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One very important component of your national boards portfolio will be the two videos you must submit for Entries 2 and 3.  The bulk of your writing will come AFTER you have recorded your videos.

One of your videos will involve a whole class career lesson.  The other will include you and one student needing academic counseling.

The first thing I want you to know is this:  Do not simply make a video without paying close attention to the video analysis section of the entry directions.  Take time first to read and understand exactly what the assessor will be looking for during the video.  You will need to make sure you address each point within fifteen minutes on your videos.  Fifteen minutes is the absolute maximum time your video should be.  Anything more will not count toward your score and will not be viewed.    PLEASE be sure to thoroughly read your Format Specifications.  Specific directions for video recording are given and include “Video Recording DOs and DON’Ts.”

Here are a few important things for you to remember:

  • Be sure to have a video release form for each student included in your videos.
  • Remember to submit a copy of your driver’s license or any government issued ID.  Your assessor will need this to confirm that the person in the video is really you. You’ll include a copy with each entry separately.
  • Do NOT edit your video in ANY way.  Doing this will affect your score.
  • If you do happen to use an actual video tape, be sure to “cue” your video so it starts exactly where you would like the assessor to begin watching.  Your fifteen minutes don’t have to include any special type of introduction.  CD’s will also need to begin exactly where your fifteen minutes start.
  • It’s okay if you have some students in your classroom video without release forms.  They can still participate and even answer questions.  Just be sure they are not visible in your recording.  You can sit those students in a section behind the camera.
  • Make sure you are visible at some point in the video.
  • In your writing, it’s good to quote a student’s response that you are referring to just in case it seems inaudible on your recording.

My Approach

My career lesson for Entry 2 was at least 45 minutes in length, but only 15 minutes of it could be included on my video.  Before even planning my lesson, I looked at each question and noted what I would need to show evidence of during my recording.  This included how I determined the students understanding of the topic of career development, how I provided constructive feedback, how I ensured fairness, equity, and access for each of the students, how I used technology, and evidence of my students’ engagement in critical thinking or problem solving.  That may seem like a lot to squeeze into fifteen minutes, but it CAN be done.

I followed the same process for Entry 3 using the Video Recording Analysis questions.

Pay special attention to the questions that say to “cite specific evidence from the video segment.”  While some questions are things you can simply demonstrate and point out during the video (ie. Steps taken to foster a purposeful and supportive counseling environment), others will require pulling direct quotes from your students or you.  Set your lesson up to include these important interactions.

I felt this post was necessary as I have heard of candidates simply recording a lesson and attempting to use it for their writing without really paying attention to what the assessors will be looking for. If you start by planning around the questions for the video analysis, you will not find yourself recording multiple videos.  I recorded once for each of my videos, but pre-planning was truly the key.

Stick around!   You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates!  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Do you have any specific questions I haven’t addressed regarding video recording?


National Boards: Continuing Entry 1

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Today’s post continues to discuss Entry 1 for school counselors.  This entry involves a small group session that focuses on a critical need at your school.  Read my last NBPTS post, Planning for Entry 1, if you missed my initial explanation of the entry.


Entry 1 is divided into the following sections:

  1. Instructional Context (1 page)
  2. Planning and Implementation (5 pages)
  3. Analysis of Student Work (4 pages)
  4. Reflection (2 pages)

Be sure to include these headings in your writing.  Also remember to create a header to automatically include your candidate ID number on the upper right side of each page. Use the suggested page lengths to keep within the 12-page limit for this entry.  You are not required to include the questions in your writing.  If you are thinking about doing it, I would suggest you reconsider.  Just answer the questions.  You can use parts of the questions as sentence starters where appropriate or simply use a connected standard as a lead in to your answer.  You want your writing to flow and be an “easy read” for your assessor.

The bulk of your writing will cover planning and implementation and the analysis of the students’ work.  Notice that the planning and implementation sections should be no more than five pages in length, but there are eleven bullets of questions to answer.  The Analysis of Student Work section should be just one page less, but only has five bullets.  What does this tell you?  The assessors will really be looking for a thorough analysis of your students’ work.

When you write your reflection, be sure to really think about how your lesson went.  Approach this just as you do any group or class lesson.  When you teach a lesson for the first time, more times than not you will discover something you could have done differently or something that went very well.  Really take time to think through this section of your writing.

You will need to choose and submit three student work samples.  Two pages per student may be submitted, but no more than six pages total.  You will turn in the original work samples.  The pages must be 8.5 x 11 in size.  One of the work samples I submitted was a half sheet of manila paper.  I still had to affix the half sheet to a full sheet of paper. Also, you may not submit an assignment that is front to back thinking it is one page.  It will be considered two pages. These specific directions are included in the Format Specifications section of your portfolio instructions.  There are more things you will need to know, so PLEASE be sure to read them thoroughly.

With Entry 1, you are also required to submit a description of the assignment and a set of instructions.  This should be no more than one page in length.  Do not over think this.  Just tell the assessor what the assignment was along with the directions the students followed to complete it.  My own description page was approximately a half page in length.

Stick Around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates. My next NBPTS post will begin to address Entry 2.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Let me know if there are any questions you have about Entry 1.

National Boards: Planning for Entry 1

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As I mentioned in my post Connecting Entries to Standards, Entry 1 (Addressing Personal/Social Needs) involves a small group session that focuses on a critical need at your school.  You’ll have to collect data to support the need for this group and use your analysis of the data to create the lesson.  You will also be required to submit student work samples.

First, identify a critical student need at your school.  What ever you decide, you will want to include data to support the need.  Really take some time to think about how your addressing this need will benefit your students.  Be prepared to discuss why it is important and how you came to explore the issue at your school.

There are four sections including Instructional Context, Planning and Implementation, Analysis of Student Work, and Reflection.  You are required to write no more than 12 typed pages.  This means you may not even think about adding a thirteenth page with two sentences on it.  If that happens, you’ll need to find something you can delete.  Anything over the specified amount will not be scored.  Be mindful of the suggested page lengths.  These are great guides to help you gauge if you are writing too little or too much.

You will need to infuse every standard except Standard VIII into Entry 1.  To start, read all of the questions associated with this entry.  As you become familiar with what you are expected to write about, you will be able to connect the standards to your writing.  Next, re-read through each standard and circle, underline, or star the areas that pertain to Entry 1.  Be sure to note the number one beside each area so you will know exactly where to pull from for your writing.  For example, the third question under Planning and Implementation asks, “How did you collaborate with the family(ies) and/or community resources in designing this small group session?”  Which of the standards do you think is being addressed in this question?  You’re correct if your answer is Standard VII:  Collaboration with Family and Community.  If you read under the sub-heading: Collaboration with Families, you will see it says the following:

“Accomplished school counselors know that families are among the strongest allies in the development of students.  Involvement with families helps school counselors learn about students’ backgrounds as well as parental expectations and aspirations.  School counselors encourage families to become a part of school life by including them in discussions and plans for students’ academic, career, and personal/social development.”

So, as you are answering this question, refer to this section of the standard and include some of the language in your writing.  Write about what you did to collaborate, and mention that you know that families are strong allies when it comes to the development of students.  Or, talk about how you “included parents in the discussion” of your small group plans.

Your Turn

The ninth questions under Planning and Implementation asks, “What efforts have you made within this small-group session to consider fairness, equity, and diversity?”  Which standard should you refer to?  Can you find at least two areas of this standard to infuse into your writing as you answer this question?

Every question won’t necessarily be connected to a standard, but by the time you finish your twelve pages of writing, the ten standards for Entry 1 should all be addressed.

Entry 1 will also require you to write about the counseling theories in which your small-group is grounded.  You will need to “discuss the theories and specifically how they relate to your small group session.”

Something I also want to mention here is this:  You will sometimes feel as though you are writing something you answered previously.  Ignore this feeling, and answer each question separately and completely.  An example for this entry would be the question under Planning and Implementation that asks you to describe the activity that took place during the small-group session that prompted the student work.  Later, under Analysis of Student Work, you have a question that asks, “What was the assignment that prompted the completion of the student work?”  Sound the same?  The first question is asking what led up to your assigning  the task to the students.  The second question is asking what the assignment actually was.  If you’re not careful, you might think questions are the same when in fact, they aren’t.  It is true, however,  that you will sometimes find yourself repeating things you’ve already written.  Just do it!  Answer each question thoroughly and restate anything that is necessary.

Stick around!  In my next NBPTS post, I will continue to discuss Entry 1. As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave comments below with questions you have about this entry.  I will do my best to address them in my next NBPTS post.