Ever heard of micro-credentialing?
Micro-credentialing is the process of earning a micro-credential, something similar to a mini-degree or certification in a specific topic area. It is a relative newcomer in the field of educational professional development and the hope is that it will help make professional development more focused, practical, personalized, engaging, and relevant to teachers.
Earning a micro-credential usually requires completing a certain number of activities, assessments, or projects related to the topic and then, once the requirements have been completed, work is submitted in order to earn the credential. Digital certificates, or badges, are often given to provide official evidence of skill attainment. These digital badges may carry attached metadata that illustrates what the micro-credentialing work consisted of and can then be attached to things like emails, resumes, or Linked In pages.
But what does micro-credentialing have to do with gifted and talented students?
In Baltimore County, Maryland, we’re about to see! Baltimore County Public Schools has recently partnered with the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) to begin using their “Giftedness Knows No Boundaries” micro-credentialing program. The NAGC campaign is designed to promote equity and excellence and provide key information about the nature and needs of gifted children and is the first formal certification in the country focused on educating academically advanced but underserved students.
One of the micro-credentialing options that will be available to BCPS initially is the “See Me” class, which focuses on the ability to recognize indicators of potential giftedness in students, particularly those in traditionally underrepresented populations. Research shows that children who live in poverty and children who come from ethnic and language minority groups are 250% less likely to be identified for or receive gifted services in school, even when they achieve at the same level as their more well-off, non-minority peers.
The second micro-credentialing option will be “Understand Me”, which will focus on the asynchronous development that occurs with many gifted children and the accompanying need to have specialized social and emotional supports. Educators will develop the knowledge and skill to provide such social-emotional supports through this class.
It is anticipated that each of the micro-credentialing courses will take from 12-15 hours to complete and BCPS teachers will also be able to earn a continuing professional development (CPD) credit for each micro-credential course they take. Additionally, NAGC will grant an “Attaboy” digital badge for every micro-credential completer.
Future micro-credentialing options, “Teach Me” (evidence-based instructional practices using accountability systems that monitor progress) and “Challenge Me” (providing the appropriate level of challenge and stimulating learning and development through acceleration) are possibilities in the future.
Micro-credentialing is an exciting development. We know that many teachers go into classrooms with very little background knowledge on gifted and talented students as many teacher preparation programs do not provide or require any specialized courses on the gifted population despite that getting targeted professional development that corresponds to the gifted population is required by Maryland law:
Education Article, § 5– 401(d), and §§ 8-201 – 203,Annotated Code of Maryland.04. Professional DevelopmentA.Teachers and other personnel assigned specifically to work with students who have been identified as gifted and talented shall engage in professional development aligned with the competencies specified by the Gifted and Talented Education Specialist certification §13A.12.03.12.B.Teachers who wish to pursue leadership roles in gifted and talented education shall be encouraged to obtain Gifted and Talented Education Specialist certification as defined in §13A.12.03.12.
Happily, professional development and its necessity in supporting educators in building their capacity to help students succeed has been recognized in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). New provisions aimed at helping educators grow are evidenced by the expansion of allowable use of Title II funds for professional development purposes.Title II (Part A) funds can be used by state and local educational agencies to support professional development needs in:
(J) providing training to support the identification of students who are gifted and talented, including high-ability students who have not been formally identified for gifted education services, and implementing instructional practices that support the education of such students, such as—
‘‘(i) early entrance to kindergarten;
‘‘(ii) enrichment, acceleration, and curriculum compacting activities; and
‘(iii) dual or concurrent enrollment programs in secondary school and post-secondary education; — ESSA Section 2103 (b)(3)(J)
How school districts are utilizing Title II monies to fund specific, practical, and targeted professional development to support gifted education is something to watch for. Developing these competencies among teachers in Baltimore County, and anywhere else in the country, is a step in the right direction and is to be applauded and encouraged.