We sat down and spoke with Dr. Kristin Humphries, Superintendent of East Moline School District, to learn more about the district’s new micro-credential program launching this fall. This is what he had to share.
What challenges was your district trying to address when you realized you needed a new model for professional development?
Number one was raising the level of expertise of our teachers and creating personalized pathways for them. For example, here in the East Moline schools, we speak almost 40 languages. We teach bilingual instruction in Hakha Chin, Spanish, Arabic and French. Our teachers need skills to serve our community and we want to help build their capacity. This is all about serving our teachers who in turn create learner-centered environments so our students can thrive and excel.
Secondly, we needed to address teacher retention. We have a couple of neighboring districts that pay more and we lose teachers every year to these districts. We want to keep our own teacher leaders and offer competitive pay while building capacity. So we worked with our union to allow for a new provision in our collective bargaining agreement that recognizes our microcredential program so teachers can utilize them to matriculate on the salary schedule. In short, we are not only building their capacity for serving our students, we are allowing them to move on the salary schedule for the microcredentials they earn.
Lastly, we have a teacher shortage going on, and I think micro-credentials will be important to helping resolve this shortage. It’s very hard to find teachers in specialty areas, such as special education and English learning instruction. I’m currently working with the State Board of Education and legislators to pass legislation that would recognize credit hours earned from micro-credentials for licensure and certification. This would not only help my teachers raise their level of expertise, but also get them licensed to teach different subjects within the district that meet the needs of our students.
What led you to exploring micro-credentials?
The concept of micro-credentials was not new to me, but I started thinking about how they can address my unique challenges. After hearing Jason [Lange, President & Co-founder, BloomBoard] speak, I realized that micro-credentials give us the opportunity to really tailor learning to the needs of our teachers. We can go to brick and mortar for a Master’s degree or continuing credit, but we needed something that was more personalized to meet the needs of our educators so they could better serve our students.
Tell us about the micro-credential program you’re kicking off this fall.
We’re kicking off a pilot this fall that will focus on three different pathways:
- Learning Recovery
- Social Emotional Learning
- Student Centered Learning
It’s micro-credential based, so it’s going to be something different. Teacher’s work won’t be graded by a professor who hasn’t been in a classroom in 15 years. It won’t be graded by the district. This program is rigorous, it’s personalized action research, and it’s something teachers can do in their own classrooms to improve their practice. And not only that, more than likely, there will be a nationally board-certified teacher that is working with our educators to become better teachers [coaching].
Are there any incentives for your teachers to earn micro-credentials?
They get the opportunity to take these classes and increase their level of expertise, which obviously helps our students. But they also get paid for it. I worked with our union to have it in our collective bargaining agreement that if a teacher earns three Carnegie units through BloomBoard, a district-approved vendor, they can matriculate on our salary schedule like a person could for a college graduate class.
And, as one of our next steps, we’re going to build our own Master’s Degree program—EMSD University [through BloomBoard]. We want to build out a Master’s level pathway for our teachers where they can earn a 30 hour Master’s degree, similar to Dysart U, and earn Masters level pay. We envision 15 of those credit hours in what we think a master teacher in East Moline needs, while allowing for the personalization of the remaining 15 credits to fit the needs of the individual teacher.
How are you covering the cost of the program?
We’re using Title I dollars right now, but we’re still talking about more things we could do with the third round of ESSER funding — the American Recovery Act. I think there’s a big opportunity to expand this program in the spring, and go really big next fall using some of the ESSER money.
Do you foresee a day when microcredentials are the standard for professional development?
I do. It’s very difficult for brick and mortars [universities] to be responsive to the needs of our educators and I believe it’s important to serve them where they are. With microcredentials, teachers can go home and have their personal time and get their PD the way they need it and the way they learn best. There’s no other opportunity right now to do that other than through micro-credentials because they are tailored to their needs academically, and their schedules personally.
I think the problem is that not enough people know what microcredentials are yet. And not enough districts are using them. That’s going to change. In 10 years I believe that microcredentials will be the prevalent form of professional development.
Do you have any advice for other administrators thinking about micro-credentials for teacher development?
First, we need educators to start learning more about microcredentials. When I talk to superintendents, they might have heard of digital badging, but they don’t know a great deal about micro-credentials. Education leaders need to learn more about this approach because it can and will change the way you serve your staff. We talk a lot about building the capacity of our staff. But you really need to meet your educators where they are with a rigorous personalized experience including choice and voice, and everything else will take care of itself. Microcredentials can and will help us get there.
Want to learn more about BloomBoard’s micro-credential based professional learning programs? Click here to schedule a time to speak with someone from our team.