A superintendent stands at a podium and clicks to the opening slide of the district’s new strategic plan. It reads “(insert your city) Children First” or “(insert your city) Preparing 21st Century Citizens” or “(insert your city) Achieves.” The slides lay out carefully crafted, well researched and thought-out plans to tackle the serious challenges facing school systems. Big Challenges - Complex Solutions.
Above and beyond a universal focus on improved student achievement and accountability, many leaders use strategic plans as a means to articulate approaches to emerging challenges, to set a new path, and meet new needs. Over the past several years systems have targeted improving achievement for young men of color, implementing computer science programs, reducing incidents of bullying, improving fiscal stability, and supporting teacher leadership. These goals set leaders apart - define their expertise, their vision and their values. But these goals require support, collaboration and the engagement of whole communities.
How can system leaders know constituents understand their roles - individually and collectively in contributing to these systemic goals and vision? How can individuals working in systems develop their own agency in support of solving big complex problems? How does a community know progress toward a goal is being made? How do we know what leadership really stands for? Well, put a badge on it!
Micro-credentials are gaining increased attention as a means to document and recognize skills, achievements and competencies globally. School systems are seeing strong value in micro- credentials as a way to encourage lifelong learning for educators and to recognize learning in formal and informal settings for both adults and youth.
Teaching Matters has pioneered the use of micro-credentials in partnership with the NYC DOE as part of career pathway programs for emerging teacher leaders - a critical initiative in NYC. We are seeing big benefits to the use of micro-credentials for learners and for systems, and we see another emerging benefit - using micro-credentials to demonstrate what an organization seeks to accomplish - what the system values.
Consider a system that has identified improving early literacy as a strategic goal. Micro-credentials may be awarded to: educators for participating in professional learning and demonstrating key early reading strategies in their classrooms; principals who adopt innovative approaches to early literacy; individual students who demonstrate core competencies and who document at home literacy activities; and even to community members who initiate, support or innovate around this core system-level goal. Micro-credentialing the activities and the impact that relate to strategic goals makes obvious each actor’s role in working toward meeting these goals, engages the larger community in supporting system goals, and can demonstrate progress toward these goals on a day-to-day basis.
Teaching Matters is focused on competency-based micro-credentials for educators. Among other initiatives, Teaching Matters is collaborating with New York City’s Young Men’s Initiative to micro- credential emerging teacher leaders who are demonstrating impact in their classrooms with the use of culturally responsive education (CRE) practices. Through evidence-based micro-credentials the system is able to see - on an ongoing basis - how teachers are showing expertise in the implementation of CRE practices, and the impact it is having on instruction.
Through this micro-credentialing project the NYC DOE is:
- marking organizational priorities and goals
- providing transparency around how educators can have agency in the strategic vision
- measuring frequent small but important individual contributions to critical system-level goals
- recognizing and rewarding success that builds capacity for sustained improvement!
Micro-credentials have already shown great promise as a means to define individual skills and expertise - a great benefit to the learner and earner. What we now recognize is they offer a valuable opportunity for organizations and systems to articulate, incentivize and evaluate high priority goals - creating opportunities for community-wide agency and engagement. It truly takes a village of individuals taking many micro steps to solve our schools’ macro challenges.
So, What do you stand for?