Report Overpromises in Its Advocacy for Teacher Micro-Credentials

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: New America report lacks validity and reliability in promoting the benefits of micro-credentials in place of traditional professional development.

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New America recently published a report, Harnessing Micro-Credentials for Teacher Growth: A National Review of Early Best Practices, that champions ways that micro-credentials have been used to allow teachers to move up the career ladder, receive higher pay, or renew their licenses.

Elena Aydarova of Auburn University reviewed the report and found scarce evidence to support its ambitious claims of how micro-credentials could remedy the shortfalls of traditional professional development for teachers.

The report, along with an accompanying implementation guide, offers recommendations for how to implement and integrate micro-credentials into states’ human resources systems.

However, Professor Aydarova explains, without incorporating any of the extensive research-based knowledge on teaching, effective professional development, and teacher effectiveness policies, the report fails to recognize that micro-credential use alone does not improve teaching or student learning. This can create problems rather than provide solutions. Moreover, the report’s implementation guide starts with the idealistic assumption that states, districts, and school leaders have the capacity to select and ensure the high quality of micro-credentials before they are offered to teachers.

Professor Aydarova also points out that the primary role of micro-credentials is to assess whether teachers have acquired a particular skill, so they require additional resources to provide teachers with opportunities to develop that skill. Since micro-credentials on their own cannot provide opportunities for teacher growth and require the existence of effective professional development systems to work, the report’s title and guidelines are misleading.

Even if implemented, Professor Aydarova concludes, the report’s plan for expanding the use of micro-credentials could not deliver on its promises.

Find the review, by Elena Aydarova, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/microcredentials

Find Harnessing Micro-credentials for Teacher Growth: A National Review of Early Best Practices, written by Melissa Tooley and Joseph Hood and published by New America, at:
https://d1y8sb8igg2f8e.cloudfront.net/documents/Harnessing_Micro-credentials_for_Teacher_Growth_.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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Michelle Renée Valladares

Elena Aydarova
Auburn University
(334) 844-7784
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