National Boards: Organization is Key!

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If you are a school counselor completing National Board certification, it is very important for you to be as organized as possible.  People who like to keep things organized already won’t have a problem with this.  However, for those of you who need a little assistance, here are just a few suggestions.

Keep Everything in One Place

Before it’s all said and done, you will have several pieces of paper to keep up with.  This starts with your standards which you’ve already copied and have been reading during the summer.  Right? 🙂  There are some items you can make copies of for your portfolio, but there are others (like student work samples) that have to be submitted in their original form.  You’ll want to have a safe place to store these.  For my NBPTS storage, I chose to use plastic accordion files.  I used them because I was always manipulating the packets during my writing, and having to pull them from and replace them into a binder was a step I chose to delete.  I also used them because I could easily slip them into a bag to carry wherever I needed to go.  I recently found some plastic files  in the $1 section at Target.

I had two of these files.  One was used to store my standards and my directions for each entry.  Most of these accordion files have four tabs and five sections.  That allowed four spaces for my entries and one for my standards.  I mentioned in my post Connecting Entries to Standards that I stapled each standard separately so I could pull the specific standards I needed to address a particular entry.  I did the same thing with the directions for each entry.  As I completed a rough draft for an entry, I would print it and keep it behind the appropriate tab with it’s corresponding directions. When March rolled around, I put a replica of what I actually turned in behind each flap for my records.  This included cover sheets and copies of my students’ work samples. (The original work samples had to be submitted in my portfolio.)

The second accordion file was used to store student work samples, release forms, documents for my accomplishments, and any handouts I used for my small group, career lesson, and academic advisement session.  Basically, this file held everything I didn’t put in the first file.  As the school year progressed, I didn’t worry about misplacing any important papers because everything was kept in one of these files.  It was very helpful for me.

Save Your Writing in Multiple Locations

It is very important to keep your work backed up.  I used a flash drive so I could always travel with my work.  I always worked from my flash drive, but once I finished working I would save my writing to my hard drive as well.  Google Docs (Soon to be Google Drive) is a data storage option which can allow you to do without the flash drive if you so desire.  Be careful not to forget to save any updates you make to your entries in all locations.  Also remember, a flash drive doesn’t require internet access, so it’s still not a bad idea to have your entries save on one just in case you can’t access the internet.

Keep Monthly Calendars

I am one of those people who needs to “see” everything on a calendar.  It helps me visualize my week or month.  In a previous post, I mentioned using a calendar to help me plan my writing time.  Click here to see an example of a calendar for Entry 1. I’ve included it just to give you a visual of what I did.  As you plan for each entry, begin with the end in mind.  Start by deciding when you want to have the entry completed.  From there, break the entry down into smaller pieces.  Doing this helps make the process less daunting.  Decide how long you plan to work on any given day.  The whole purpose of this calendar is to help you pace your writing.  Don’t worry if you don’t stick exactly to your calendar, but try your best to meet your completion date.  Remember to include open days on your calendar.  If you decide to write on that day, great!  If you need a break, take it.

Of course my tips are what worked best for me.  If you have tips that have helped you stay organized, PLEASE share them in the comment section below. They may help someone else.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  What do you suggest for NBPTS organization?

National Boards: 5 “Must Do’s” for Entry 4

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This post focuses on five important things to remember for Entry 4- Documented Accomplishments: Contributions to Student Learning.  If you haven’t already read my previous National Boards posts, you can find them all linked on my page- National Boards.

Entry 4 Must Do’s:

  1. DO incorporate the four standards associated with this entry into your writing.  It’s similar to when we tell students who are answering questions about a passage they’ve read to prove their answers.  I can write a wonderful two-page summary about an accomplishment.  However, if it doesn’t address the four standards, that wonderful writing won’t garner the points I need for my final score.  For example: If my accomplishment is about a great family event I coordinate at my school, I would really need to focus on Standard VII: Collaboration with Family and Community.  As I read this standard, I learn that accomplished school counselors “work to educate parents on key issues that affect student learning.”  Therefore, I need to write about how my event did just that.  Let me be clear.  Each accomplishment does not have to address ALL four standards, but at some point each of the four standards associated with this entry should be addressed.
  2. DO choose accomplishments that are of significance to your school counseling program.  I mentioned in a previous post that you may think of several accomplishments you could use, but not every accomplishment will lend itself to helping you show how what you do truly impacts your students or improves your school counseling program.  Be sure to use the categories chart pictured here.  If you have a difficult time completing the chart regarding one of your accomplishments, that accomplishment may be one you should reconsider using.
  3. DO submit enough accomplishments to thoroughly demonstrate your work as a leader and/or collaborator, a learner, and as a partner with students’ families and their community.  I’ve been asked questions about the number of accomplishments to submit.  It is important to show your work in each of these areas.  Yes, you may have an accomplishment that covers two of these areas.  However, if you do, be sure you are supplying enough evidence in your writing and with your artifacts.  Also remember, you can only submit ten typed pages of writing for this entry whether you choose to submit three accomplishments or the eight which are allowed.  My opinion- More isn’t always better in this case.
  4. DO describe your accomplishments in detail.  Write as if you are telling someone who has no clue as to what you are talking about.  For example:  If one of your accomplishments involves PBIS, begin discussing it by saying Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports followed by (PBIS).  From that point forward, you may type PBIS.  Also, be sure to explain just what it is.  Remember: Write as though this person knows nothing about it!
  5. DO read the “Format Specifications” and “Assembling Your Entry” sections for this entry very carefully. Each entry has it’s own set of directions.  Never assume what you had to do in Entry 1 will apply to Entry 3.  Read, highlight, and follow the directions as written.
I also want to include a chart I created from a portion of a form that was given to me during an informational session.  I don’t know who created it, and I take no credit for it.  It helps NBPTS candidates think about their description and analysis.   The original is on a triangle.  I will explain why.


The top of the triangle included the key words for describing the nature of the accomplishment.  It should not be a very large portion of your writing, but should be very concise.  Remember to describe the accomplishment as if the assessor knows NOTHING, but don’t take one half to a whole page doing it.


The second tier is a little meatier.  You really want to get your point across when it comes to describing the significance of your accomplishment.  Not as much as you will tell about the impact of it, but a lot more than you told about the nature of it.


The third tier is the largest.  The most important point you want to drive home is how your accomplishment impacts student learning.  This is where you need to cite specific examples where appropriate.  Paint a picture for your assessor.  The assessor needs to truly understand how your accomplishment really made a difference.

The form also included “buzz words” for each section.  These words helped me think about what to say for each area.  If these are something you feel would benefit you, don’t hesitate to email me through my contact page and request them.

If there are any additional Entry 4 questions you would like for me to address, please leave a comment below.  I will use any questions from you to create my next NBPTS post.  However, if  there aren’t many questions and I can simply reply with an answer under this post, I will do that. If there are few or no questions, I will be moving on to other areas of the NBPTS process.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  Also, be sure to enter the “Simon’s Hook Giveaway” before tomorrow, July 8th, at 11:59 P.M. E.S.T.

National Boards: Part 2- Documented Accomplishments

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My last NBPTS post discussed Documented Accomplishments.  This post continues the discussion of Entry 4.

As mentioned previously, you are allowed 10 pages maximum for your description and analysis of your accomplishments.  This applies whether you choose to share three accomplishments or the maximum of eight accomplishments.  NBPTS instructions state that your description of each accomplishment must “clearly and specifically describe why they are significant in your counseling context and what impact they have on student learning and the improvement of your school counseling program.”  Therefore, it is not enough to just write what you do and and how you do it.  You must also describe the significance and impact.

You are given four specific questions to use for actually writing the accomplishment:

  • What is the nature of this accomplishment?– Describe the accomplishment in detail.  Don’t assume your assessor knows anything about what you’re describing.  If it’s PBIS, for example, tell what the letters PBIS stand for and what it entails. BE SPECIFIC.
  • Why is this accomplishment significant?–  How does it make you better?  How did the accomplishment affect students?  Did it fill a need at your school?  This is where you will need to demonstrate partnering with students’ families, being a learner, or being a leader and/or collaborator.
  • How has what you have described had an impact on students’ learning?–  Did it improve something?  Was there a shift or positive change because of it? For example- Before hosting a career fair……But now,……  Was student learning improved because of the accomplishment?
  • How does what you have described contribute to the improvement of your school counseling program?–  What positive changes have resulted because of this accomplishment?
In addition to the ten pages of description and analysis, you may submit up to sixteen pages of documentation to support your accomplishments.  This documentation may include artifacts or verification forms.

Artifacts can be newsletters, flyers about specific events, parts of a handout from a presentation, letters from parents, or a copy of a certificate of completion for a workshop you attended.

Verification forms are used for those accomplishments that have no artifacts to include.  In this instance, you would ask someone who knows about your accomplishment to complete a verification form confirming or verifying your description.  A person who verifies can be anyone from an adult to a child.

Be sure to read every bit of the portfolio instructions!  It gives cautions as well as suggestions on how to choose your accomplishments.

Reflective Summary
You are required to reflect on every entry.  For the documented accomplishments, you will write a two-page reflection.  This will include your thoughts on the significance of all of your accomplishments together and your plans for the future in regards to impacting student learning and making improvements to your school counseling program.

The reflective summary questions ask what was most effective in impacting student learning and improving your school counseling program, what your plan is to further impact student learning in the future, and what your plan is to further improve your school counseling program.

One thing I want to say here (and I will probably repeat later) is this:  Be sure to answer each question completely.  Even if you feel you’ve already said something in a previous answer, write it again if the question calls for that information.  Never say to yourself, “I said that on the other page.  I don’t need to say it again here.”

PLEASE read the format specifications and how to assemble your entry very carefully!  Instructions are very specific and failing to follow them could result in your entry not being read.  I will write more about this in my next National Boards post.

If there is anything here you still do not understand, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  You may leave any comments here or visit my contact page to email me directly.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.   Connect with me!


National Boards: Documented Accomplishments

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Documented accomplishments are the focus of Entry 4.  In my last NBPTS post, Connecting Entries to Standards, I shared that there are specific school counseling standards for each portfolio entry.  Entry 4 requires you to review standards I, VII, X, and XI.  As mentioned in the previous post, this entry highlights your involvement with the families of students as well as the community.  You will also need to show how you are a learner as well as a leader/collaborator.  With this entry, you can showcase things you do that go beyond what’s expected.  You will be allowed to submit a maximum of 16 pages of documentation to support your accomplishments.

Entry 4 is a good entry to begin working on over the summer. Begin by making a list of school-wide events you coordinate in your school counseling program. Also, think of any teams or committees you are an integral part of as well as any staff development you’ve benefited from. Some examples include but are not limited to the following:

  • Career Fairs
  • Hosting a Counseling Intern
  • Local, State, or National Conferences/Workshops
  • Middle School Transition Night for Parents
  • Student Support Team
  • School-wide Character Education Events
  • Special Parent Outreach Sessions (ie. Improving student attendance)

For each item on your list, you’ll need to ask yourself:  Was I a partner with families and the community?  Was I a learner?  Was I a leader/collaborator?  You’ll want to make sure you have at least one accomplishment that demonstrates each area.  It is possible that one accomplishment will demonstrate all three areas which is fine. You can have up to 8 documented accomplishments.  However, you are limited to 10 pages maximum for your writing.  Believe me, you’ll wish you had more than 10 pages after you begin writing. Personally, I only focused on four accomplishments.

It is important to note the following:  In the area of partnering with families and the community, the accomplishment(s) will have to take place during the current school year.  The other two areas show your development as a learner and leader/collaborator.  These two areas can go back no more than five years.  For example, a career fair demonstrates your partnering with families and the community.  You’ll have to host the event during the current school year and show evidence of the event.  You’ve demonstrated your  work as a leader if you hosted a counselor intern anytime over the last five years.

If you have printed the portfolio instructions, you will find a categories chart in the Entry 4 section. (page 45- written as 2-39 on the bottom)  This is great to use as you are determining which accomplishments to include.  It helps you to think about each area as you list the activity, the significance of the activity, the impact the activity had on student learning, how it improved your school counseling program, and what documentation you have to show evidence.  It states on the bottom of this chart, “Some activities in which all counselors must engage may not make the best examples of accomplishments for this entry unless you perform them in a way or to a degree that makes them very effective in promoting students’ learning and improving your school counseling program.”  This is so true, and completing this chart helped me to weed out some of the items on my list.

Stick around!  I’ll discuss more about Entry 4 in my next NBPTS post.  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Connect with me!


National Boards: Connecting Entries to Standards

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There are 11 school counseling standards.  Each entry you complete will list the standards which should be represented in your writing.  I mentioned in my post National Boards: Start Planning Now that I printed all of the standards so I could manipulate them in order to highlight and jot notes.  Once I copied them, I stapled them separately so I could pull the ones I needed at any given time.  Entry 1 uses all but one of the standards while Entry 4 only uses four of them.  Additionally, stapling separately  helped me to break down all of the information into small chunks which is how I learn best.

You’ll need to know what each entry is about in order to understand how the standards connect to them.  Therefore, I have given a brief explanation of each.

Entry 1- Addressing Personal/Social Needs: This entry involves a small group session that focuses on a critical need at your school.  You’ll need 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.

Entry 2-  Exploring Career Development:  This entry involves a whole class career lesson.  You will be required to submit a video segment that is 15 minutes or less and that proves your ability to help students gain more knowledge about the development of careers.

Entry 3-  Maximizing Academic Learning:  This entry involves an individual academic counseling session.  You will also submit a video segment for this entry.  Again, it should be 15 minutes or less.  You will need to demonstrate your ability to assist a student with a plan for academic progress.  The academic intervention plan documents will be required for review as well.

Entry 4- Documented Accomplishments: Contributions to Student Learning:  This entry highlights your involvement with the families of students as well as the community.  You will need to show how you are a learner as well as a leader/collaborator.  With this entry, you can showcase things you do that go beyond what’s expected.  You will be allowed to submit a maximum of 16 pages of documentation to support your accomplishments.

The National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards includes the following standards for school counseling candidates:

I.  School Counseling Program (Entries 1, 2, 3, 4)

II. School Counseling and Student Competencies (Entries 1, 2, 3)

III.  Human Growth and Development (Entries 1, 2, 3)

IV. Counseling Theories and Techniques (Entries 1, 2, 3)

V.  Equity, Fairness, and Diversity (Entries 1, 2, 3)

VI.  School Climate (Entry 1)

VII.  Collaboration with Family and Community (Entries 1, 2, 3, 4)

VIII.  Informational Resources and Technology (Entry 2)

IX.  Student Assessment (Entries 1, 2, 3)

X. Leadership, Advocacy, and Professional Identity (Entries 1, 4)

XI.  Reflective Practice (Entries 1, 2, 3, 4)

It’s good to know ahead of time which entries and standards match up.  This will make your highlighting and note writing more meaningful and exact.

Although you will receive a CD with all of the forms and information you need in “The Box” after applying for candidacy, you can always go to the NBPTS website to download and print everything you need to get started and to begin planning out your school year.  I say, why wait? Also, remember to look into any sessions being offered by your school district.

Stick around!  You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  I will continue to add more posts to the National Boards page.  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Connect with me!

National Boards: Begin With the End in Mind

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So, you’re reading your standards, noting where you can add to your school counseling program, and highlighting key points.  In order to move forward, you’re going to need a plan!

Begin with the end in mind.  Stephen Covey said it best in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  As you prepare to take on what I’m sure feels like a mammoth task before you, you must think about the final outcome.  Of course, you want to have your portfolio completed and ready to turn in on or before the due date at the end of March.  Maybe your goal is to have it completed two weeks before the deadline.  Either way, mapping out your monthly goals for completing your NBPTS portfolio is key to staying on track and getting to your final destination.  What will you have to do in order to meet this goal?  Only you know how you work best.  Maybe you are great at multi-tasking and can work on all four entries simultaneously.  Or, if you’re like me, you like to put all of your energy on one entry at a time.  Outline your plan, and determine what you want to accomplish each month.  

Permission Forms

Two of the entries involve videotaping.  As soon as you can, determine which class you will use for Entry 2.  This entry focuses on career development.  I chose one 5th grade class and teacher to work with.  Some candidates will teach the same lesson to several classes and record each one in order to have several videos to choose from. The choice is yours.  However you decide, you will need to send the parents permission forms before any video taping.  Students with permission can be featured in your video.  Those without can still participate and speak during your video but may not be shown. Get those permission forms out as early as possible so you are not scrambling for the forms when it’s time to make the video.  You will also videotape an individual academic counseling session for Entry 3.  You may have several students in mind.  Send parents the permission forms early so when the time comes, you have several students to choose from.  I chose a student from the class I did the career lesson with.  Once I received all of the permission forms for the career video, I talked with the teacher about students in her class who could benefit from academic advisement. Although Entry 1 does not require video taping, you will still need permission forms signed in order to share the work samples generated during your small group.  I will speak more about video taping in future posts.

Give Your Plan Some Wiggle Room

Inevitably, some event or even an awful headache can pop up out of nowhere and disrupt your wonderful plan.  Always pad your plan to leave room for life’s unexpected events so that when you have to skip a day, it all works out.  If you are planning well in advance, this will be no problem at all.  I always created calendars by the month, because I’m visual and need to “see” it. I use Microsoft Publisher’s understated template.  You can see an example of one here.  I would start by including personal events on my calendar that would interfere with my writing time ie. PTA meetings, trips out of town, or choir rehearsals. Don’t wear yourself out. Sanity breaks are a must! Don’t forget to include “days off” in your plan to avoid burnout. You’ll be doing a lot of reflecting and analyzing and will need to give yourself a little respite on occasion.

State and School District Support

Be sure to find out exactly what your state or school district offers NBPTS candidates.  One great “extra” our state offered was three paid workdays to use anytime during the process.  This especially came in handy the closer it got to March when I began doing lots of revising and editing.  If this is an option for you, decide when you will take those days and incorporate them in your long range plan.  If you feel the need to work along side other NBPTS candidates, find out about existing cohorts in your district that you can join. Again, do what works best for you.  You may be like me and decide you’d rather work on your own with a mentor.  If you do plan to seek advice or assistance from a current NBCT, ask him or her early so he or she will know in advance that you will be soliciting mentoring during this process.

Stick around! You can follow Savvy School Counselor with free email updates.  I’ll be posting again soon about the NBPTS process.  Do not hesitate to ask questions. I will always do my best to answer them. Connect with me!