Monday, July 24, 2017

Micro-credentialing helps rural teachers get high-quality professional development to help students

Owsley County Supt. Timothy Bobrowski
gave teachers stipend out of his own pocket
for micro-credentialing. (LinkedIn photo)
Teachers in rural communities may have a hard time getting high-quality professional development, but a new concept called micro-credentialing could help them become better educators.

Several states such as Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as individual school districts, are piloting these programs in which teachers work on single competencies such as classroom management or collaborative coaching, Madeline Will reports for Teaching Now. Educators prove mastery of the selected subjects by showing samples of student work, videos, and more; they usually receive a digital badge upon completion of the micro-credential that can be displayed on the school website, or the teacher's LinkedIn profile, blog, or online portfolio.

It could make a big impact in Appalachia, where teachers are often too far away from the nearest university to take a graduate course, school districts are often too broke to pay for those courses, and the teachers too low-paid to comfortably pay for it themselves. Micro-credentialing "answers a really dramatic need for us . . . There is no interstate highway that touches our region," says Jeff Hawkins, executive director of Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, a group of 21 rural school districts in southeastern Kentucky. "We are in an area where it is difficult for us to attract and employ teachers in certain subject areas—foreign language, computer sciences, some advanced sciences. With micro-credentialing, we believe we can work with our department of education, particularly with the division of technology, to have folks become certified to teach computer science programs, robotics, aerospace . . . [so] our students will have access to 21st century coursework."

Owsley County, part of the cooperative, has already piloted micro-credentials across the school district. Supt. Timothy Bobrowski says he knows they have many obstacles to overcome, including a high poverty rate and geographical isolation. "We have a hard time keeping our teachers and it's hard to replace them," he says. "If you're a science, chemistry, math teacher and you don't have a family here, you're probably going to take a job somewhere else rather than coming and taking a chance in little America."

But Bobrowski has embraced micro-credentialing as a way to help teachers—so much so that he committed $5,000 out of his own pocket to give each teacher a $150 stipend for each micro-credential they complete. Will reports that more than 60 percent of Owsley County's 48 teachers completed a micro-credential in the past school year. A report published last year says that pay or leadership incentives help motivate teachers to do the difficult work involved in obtaining a micro-credential. Coaching and support are important too. Bobrowski says that's one of the reasons he put his own money on the line. "I wanted them to see that it's coming from me personally," he said. "It's a personal way to say, look, I really value this."

No comments: