Three styles of writing for the NBPTS initial certification process

How do I understand what the Portfolio Questions are asking me to do, and what is the best way to plan to answer them? This is the 24-million-dollar question that almost every National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) candidate asks themselves at one point or another during the initial or retake portfolio process! The questions seem vague and repetitive at first glance.  Then you realize what it truly is they want you to do. The National Board (NBPTS) wants you to unpack the question to fit your situation.  We are all different.  Our student population is not the same, and our professional experiences are unique to the communities we serve.  Therefore, you must tackle the written commentary portion of National Board Certification for Teachers (NBPTS) from the lens of a doctor.  Let’s look at an example of how this would look:

The first questions in a written commentary set are descriptive in nature.  THINK & WRITE DESCRIPTIVELY!

The doctor asks: “Describe to me your symptoms and what you have done so far to solve this health problem.” 

The teacher asks: “What is/or has been my current teaching/learning situation and what do my learners look like?  What are the needs of the learners, myself, my colleagues, or families?  What strategies have I put into place to meet these needs?”

The next set of questions in a written commentary are analytical in nature.  THINK & WRITE ANALYTICALLY!

The doctor says: “Now, let me run some tests to analyze what might be going on here.  Once these results come back I will write a care plan that may include more tests, therapy, or medicine in an effort to improve your outcomes in the future related to these symptoms.”

The teacher says: “Now, let me use formative and summative assessment strategies to gather data after I use strategies to teach content.  Then, I will tweak those strategies and re-assess to define an ongoing plan for this student, teacher or family.”

The final set of questions in a written commentary are reflective in nature.  THINK & WRITE REFLECTIVELY!

The doctor says: “It’s been two weeks.  How are you feeling?  Have you made any other modifications with diet, sleep, or stress that has also made a difference?  Let me take your vitals to make sure our plan is working.  If they look good we will stay the course, if they don’t look good, we will run some more tests and try an alternative treatment plan.”

The teacher says: “Our four-week unit on _____________ is coming to an end.  Our assessments reveal a mixed bag of results for student learning outcomes.  Some of my students will need some remediation and others are ready to move on to the next unit.  Here is what I would do differently next time and what I will do for these struggling learners next.

In review, the National Board Certification for teachers written commentary questions are written in such a way that you are giving the assessors a birds-eye view beginning with the WHAT. Then moving to the WHY and finally on to the HOW if you answer the question in a clear, concise, and convincing way.  

Now, go back and reread your National Board (NBPTS) guiding questions to see if you can answer them better while thinking along these lines.

Each component of the NBPTS Initial process is different so, accept my invitation to invest in yourself and join one of my mastermind classes for Component 3 or Component 4. It will help take all of the guess work out and get you writing quickly without second guessing. Check them out at


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