The Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) is an educational service agency in rural southeastern Kentucky that serves 22 school districts, 134 schools, over 3,000 teachers, and more than 50,000 students. We believe that by working together, we can face the educational challenges that students, educators, and our community experience every day.
To combat these challenges together, we developed the Activating Catalytic Transformation (ACT) Network. This network helps us organize and maximize resources to advance student outcomes. And to help individual educators in this network develop and enhance the skills they need to address our region’s challenges, we use micro-credentials. Using available micro-credentials from Digital Promise, each educator can create a personalized professional development plan that builds on the expertise they feel they most need in the classroom and in our schools.
The ACT Network brings together shared school leadership teams—teachers, principals, central office staff who serve the schools, and community advocates—to analyze a school’s data sources, including demographic data, perception and survey data, learning data, and program data. The collaborative data analysis process helps the school frame a systemic problem of practice that can best be solved by the entire school staff.
By including the entire school staff in these processes, we create a common shared ownership of the problem. After the problem of practice is framed, the entire school team works together to develop both a school and individual Catalytic Theory of Action, which defines the actions (such as networking, mentoring, facilitative coaching, personalized professional learning, and micro-credentialing) that the school and each individual will implement as they work together to solve the problem of practice.
The ACT Network schools share their solutions not only across the network, but nationally at two Forging Innovation in Rural Education (FIRE) Summits and on KVEC’s place-based learning platform, The Holler.
A common need across the ACT Network schools is the need for personalized professional learning. Micro-credentials are a solution to this need. As schools identify necessary actions within the network schools’ Theory of Action plans, educators who have learning needs in those areas (such as student engagement, assessment literacy, collaborative coaching, etc.) first check to see if there is a micro-credential available through Digital Promise. If there is a micro-credential available that aligns to their need, they include earning that micro-credential in their Individual Theory of Action.
Allen Elementary in rural Floyd County, Kentucky, has embedded micro-credentials within a system of personalized learning. After analyzing all relevant data, including attendance, behavior, student participation data, student perception, and achievement, the staff identified the need to actively engage students in learning through high-yield engagement strategies as the problem of practice.
In developing Individual Theories of Action, the entire staff collectively decided to complete a micro-credential aligned to increasing student engagement. Now, teachers and school leaders are working together to develop and demonstrate their skills and competencies in student engagement. During their professional learning communities, the teachers check in with each other on their progress, provide feedback on submissions, support each other in selecting artifacts, and provide technology assistance.
Another school in KVEC’s ACT Network, Breathitt County High School is the only high school in the district. This school year, it merged with the middle school to serve more than 1,000 students in grades 7–12. Anticipating the merger, the school team identified improving successful student transitions between grade levels, from middle school to high school, and from high school to postsecondary as their greatest need.
The high school invited the soon-to-be-merged middle school to join their team and developed a Catalytic Theory of Action that included the middle school, the three district elementary schools, the district office, and the community in their plan to strengthen student experiences and successes as they transitioned between grades, schools, and graduation.
As teachers worked together in professional learning communities, they identified common professional learning needs and micro-credentials that would help them increase their skills and competencies. The teachers worked together to support each other in earning the micro-credentials, helping each other troubleshoot difficult areas, and celebrating when a colleague earned a micro-credential and shared their digital badge.
The teachers have been instrumental around micro-credentials, helping each other identify micro-credentials that fit their needs, working together to collect evidence and artifacts that best demonstrate the skill or competency, and helping each other throughout the submission process.
Last year, Breathitt County teachers earned 22 micro-credentials. Now, with a larger learning community and stronger plan that includes micro-credentials in their professional learning system, more than half of the staff is currently working toward additional micro-credentials during the 2018–19 school year. By earning these micro-credentials, each educator hopes to be better able to address regional education challenges as an informed and united group.
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