Pat Deklotz is Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine School District in Wales, Wisconsin. She was recently named Wisconsin Superintendent of the Year.
Across our nation and our world, new developments are transforming the way students learn. Whether in rural or urban settings, or on small or large campuses, digital tools are enhancing learning and allowing educators to personalize instruction. What isn’t as evident is how that same transformation can be replicated in learning opportunities for our educators. Digital Promise is spearheading exciting work, leading a transformation of learning for educators through micro-credentials!
As the Superintendent of Kettle Moraine School District, I interact with educators each and every day. While the vast majority hold the same title of “Teacher,” they perform amazingly different jobs, ranging from a Kindergarten teacher to an AP Physics instructor, from a guidance counselor to a teacher of Mandarin Chinese or automobile repair, from a classroom of eight autistic students to an ensemble of 75 musicians.
Each educator brings a unique perspective and set of experiences, skills, interests, and abilities. Considering the variation in roles and responsibilities across the K-12 system of education, how does one-size-fits-all professional development meet the needs of our profession?
Add into the equation the expectation for educators to understand and implement personalized learning for their students, regardless of their personal experience or difference in responsibility. One might ask, “How do I go about implementing an approach I have never lived?” While it is great to read or hear about a new skill set or understanding, until it is applied one does not fully understand nor appreciate the implications or value of the new approach.
“The goal has changed from getting credits to growing and pursuing passions. It’s a total game changer!” – Ms. Scherer, Kettle Moraine educator
When the Wisconsin legislature redefined union bargaining parameters through Act 10 legislation, Kettle Moraine School District had the opportunity to redefine our compensation structure. We took deliberate and thoughtful action, listening to our teachers and aligning their interests with our system’s need to attract and retain high quality staff. We wanted to provide opportunities to recognize the differences in the professional development needs of our educators and for them to experience personalized learning themselves, in a competency-based model. We wanted to reward educators with an increase in base compensation as they worked to embrace the district’s strategic direction and goals.
“Micro-credentialing has changed, for the positive, how educators are viewing their own professional development and career path — it has enabled educators to personalize what it means to be a career educator for themselves and their classrooms.” – Mr. Anderson, Kettle Moraine educator
Following the work of Digital Promise, I studied their micro-credential framework and began to formulate our plan. Authorized by School Board action to move forward, we began building a compensation system that incorporates micro-credentials to allow educators to personalize the what, where, how, when, and why for for their learning, while impacting their base salary. Educators can choose from the multitude of micro-credentials offered through Digital Promise, others offered by our district, or suggest ones of their own making, ensuring that they can meet their various needs.
The system provides unique and personalized pathways to accomplish a specific set of learning outcomes, demonstrated through artifacts of student work and reflection. Not just focused on theoretical knowledge, micro-credentials require application in the classroom, support collaboration, and extend a professional learning community beyond the hours of the school day or the boundaries of a building.
Our educators have embraced micro-credentials and they appreciate the new-found ability to drive their professional development within the constraints of their personal lives. Ms. Scherer, a Kettle Moraine educator, noted, “The goal has changed from getting credits to growing and pursuing passions. It’s a total game changer!” Over 50 percent of our teachers have earned at least one micro-credential, demonstrating their interest. Lessons we have learned as we designed and implemented our micro-credential system include:
Our teachers appreciate the ability to impact their base wage and increase their lifetime earnings in a manner that aligns with their personal life and family demands. According to Kettle Moraine educator Mr. Anderson, “Micro-credentialing has changed, for the positive, how educators are viewing their own professional development and career path — it has enabled educators to personalize what it means to be a career educator for themselves and their classrooms. One size fits all doesn’t work in the 21st century for students or educators. Micro-credentialing is a huge step forward for the profession.”
Immediate recognition and compensation for demonstrated competencies builds respect for the arduous work required of educators and helps to generate systemic support in accomplishing the district’s goals. Just one more step on the pathway to transformation, micro-credentials are making a difference in our district!