To help solve CS teacher gap, get specific: Micro-credentials provide new pathway for teachers to target CS education skills

As computer science grows in popularity in K–12 curricula across the country, so does the need for computer science teachers.

And while there are multiple paths to earning a computer science certification — such as taking an exam, enrolling in a course, or some combination — demand is so great that these traditional methods are unlikely to meet the need for CS teachers across the U.S. As it stands, the majority of existing CS teachers (56 percent) do not have credentials specific to the teaching of computer science, such as a computer science certification.

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Did you know?

For this reason, the Code.org Advocacy Coalition recommends that state and local education agencies should support the use of micro-credentials (sometimes known as competency-based credentials) as an approach for teachers seeking a computer science endorsement.

[Read the coalition’s full report here]

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A basic look at how to implement a mico-credentials program.

Micro-credentials can benefit teachers with or without CS teaching experience. They allow teachers with no computer science background to earn an endorsement that is specific, job-embedded, performance-based, and less expensive and time-consuming than coursework. For experienced CS teachers, micro-credentials provide a pathway that recognizes teachers’ existing skills and prior experience and do not require the teacher to spend hours in traditional models of professional learning or academic coursework.

“Teacher shortages are growing at an alarming rate, especially in critical areas such as computer science,” said Jason Lange, Co-Founder of BloomBoard. “Micro-credentials provide a cost-effective way to create competency-based career pathways that ensure educators can demonstrate the content and pedagogical knowledge necessary to teach these classes effectively.”

The system also aligns with the national trend toward performance-based assessments, because it allows teachers to demonstrate content knowledge and targeted proficiencies not covered by pure content exams (such as integration of computer science into other subject areas).

“Pathways into computer science are as diverse as the teachers who teach it. Micro-credentials present one option for shifting from clock-based to competency-based professional development, allowing CS teachers to use inquiry cycles and evidence to advance their practice,“ said Melissa Rasberry, Senior Consultant; American Institutes for Research.

About a third of states have micro-credential-based initiatives for career advancement and/or licensure. And as of May 2019, Arizona, Kentucky, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Virginia, are exploring the use of micro-credentials for computer science teacher certification.

“Micro-credentials offer a way to validate the learning that educators accomplish throughout their careers. We are excited to see states institute policies supporting educators using micro-credentials for certifications, particularly in fields like computer science,” said Karen Cator, CEO of Digital Promise.

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A look at the current pathways for CS teachers to obtain CS certification.

For general information about state and district micro-credential initiatives, visit bloomboard.com and digitalpromise.org. For a recent brief from advocacy coalition member, ExcelinEd.

Lastly, to understand the certification requirements to teach particular computer science courses, see our new resource, Everyone and No One Can Teach CS.

The Code.org Advocacy Coalition is comprised of more than 50 industry, nonprofit, and advocacy organizations, seeking to make computer science a fundamental part of K–12 education.

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Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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