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Teacher Learning Systems Need Micro-Credentials to Move Teachers and Students Forward

Creating High-Quality Teachers through Micro-Credentials

Research shows that high-quality, effective teachers are the most important factor in determining students’ success in school. Yet schools across the nation are finding it harder and harder to attract and retain teachers, leading to teacher shortages in more than three quarters of states.

To get and keep highly skilled teachers, we need to continue to expand the definition of teacher learning and look beyond the traditional models that focus on seat time over demonstration of skill.  Best-practice learning delivered through micro-credentials is a potentially powerful alternative that has been gaining interest among states and school districts across the country over the past decade.

High-quality micro-credentials allow teachers to show proficiency in job-embedded discrete skills or competency by submitting evidence that is then assessed against defined evaluation criteria. When embedded as part of a comprehensive system of professional learning, micro-credentials can empower teachers to learn and demonstrate timely, relevant knowledge and skills that immediately help them in their classroom and in their career.

Micro-credentials are also accessible—in most cases, teachers can complete a micro-credential online in their own time and in their own way through public and private digital platforms. Due to the potential of micro-credentials to transform educator professional learning, it’s no surprise that interest has been growing rapidly over the past decade.  In fact, almost every state in the United States has engaged with micro-credentials for educators at either the local or the state level according to national tracking done by Digital Promise.

Producing Quality Assurance Standards for Micro-Credentials

Yet the standards and policies for using micro-credentials as part of a teacher learning system are not consistent across state and local systems of education.  This is due in part to licensure renewal policies that tend to focus on encouraging compliance rather than fostering teacher growth. 

To help address the need for consistent standards for micro-credentials, RTI International joined forces with digiLEARN in 2022, along with national education leaders and state-focused education partners in Wyoming, South Carolina, Arkansas, and North Carolina – to form the Micro-credentials Partnership of States (MPOS). This collaborative, multi-state partnership is working to identify opportunities and address challenges related to educator micro-credentialing across states.

The MPOS recently produced the Quality Assurance Standards for Micro-Credentials – a resource for educators, school districts, and state leaders to use as they incorporate micro-credentials into systems of professional learning and licensure.  The quality standards report includes policy recommendations that support states’ ability to consistently implement micro-credentials as part of high-quality state systems of education and, ultimately, improve teaching and learning in schools.  This policy brief authored by RTI International provides an overview of the work and a summary of the recommendations.

Micro-credentials continue to emerge as a flexible, personalized approach to educator professional learning with the potential to improve teacher development, recognition, and retention. Done well, micro-credentials provide a competency-based approach to professional learning where teachers demonstrate and receive feedback on knowledge and skills that have been shown to be effective in improving learning. As the Micro-Credentials Partnership of States continues its work, we encourage interested districts and states across the country to contact RTI or digiLEARN to learn about additional ways to join the effort to develop strategies to effectively integrate micro-credentials as a tool for recruiting, developing, and retaining effective teachers.

Disclaimer: This piece was written by H. Frank McKay (Education Consultant) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.