Families & the Community Opinion

Why States, Districts, and Schools Should Implement Global Certificate Programs

By Heather Singmaster — June 26, 2018 5 min read
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Editor’s Note: Today, I’m joined by Jennifer Manise, Executive Director and Grace Norman, Digital Media and Research Consultant, Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding. Together, we created the new website, Global Education Certificates, which tracks states, districts, and schools offering certifications that recognize global competence in students and teachers.

by Jennifer Manise, Grace Norman, and Heather Singmaster

Call them what you like, Global Certificate, Global Distinction, Global Seal or something else. There has been a groundswell of honors awarded to students and educators across the nation recognizing their global competence.

While each global certificate program might have distinct names and requirements, nearly all global education certificate programs have the following qualities in common:

  • Global Coursework
    Students have a minimum requirement for global coursework, either through a mix of academic disciplines or project-based learning, or competency-based approaches.

  • Global Experiences
    Students take part in service learning, internships, capstone projects, travel, or other programs that allow firsthand global experiences.

With so many competing priorities—standards, college admission, state and district assessments—why add another thing to an already crowded plate? It’s worth noting that global competence certificates started out as a groundswell movement springing up around the country. Students, educators, and policymakers alike support the option of allowing students to credential themselves beyond traditional means. Already available in almost 25% of states, other states are looking to adopt this type of program. And many districts and individual high schools also provide students with the option to earn a global certificate. Here are three top reasons why more states, districts, and high schools are considering global education certificates:

1. Global distinctions provide states, districts, schools, and students with a way to differentiate and distinguish themselves.

Global certificate programs help engage students in real-world learning that’s relevant to their future. For one, it helps rural districts, like those in Wisconsin, retain students who might have gone to urban districts in order to pursue different academic opportunities. The Wisconsin program is structured like certificate programs at the collegiate level and does not require the creation of new courses. Instead, students can earn a Global Education Achievement Certificate by completing existing courses that have been pre-approved by the state and are offered in their high school. Learn more about the Wisconsin model.

2. Global study provides real-world experiences for students and encourages deeper learning and engagement around topics of interest.

Capstone projects propel students to develop their interests and raise their voices on topics that matter most to them. In the Illinois Global Scholar pilot project, students spent one semester exploring their project idea and another semester taking action on their research. Each project looks and feels different since they are based upon student-generated ideas. One student ended up studying gender rights in Muslim cultures, another drafted state legislation around access to health care, and still another explored making homes in landslide zones safer and produced public service announcements. These are enthusiastic learners committed to extending their action-based research style of learning when they enter college this fall. Learn more about the Illinois model.

3. Students have more equitable opportunities to pursue different types of achievement than standardized assessments allow.

While we are seeing an early trend of schools moving away from some types of advanced credentialing, students are still longing for opportunities to find relevance in their school experiences. Global competency credentials allow every school and student the opportunity to customize their learning experience. Hingham High School in Massachusetts has started a Global Citizenship Program that allows students to pursue a credential and also participate in a Global Citizenship club. All students at Hingham are eligible for the club while a subset of deeply involved students pursue the full certificate. The club itself exists to support interest and access for all students in the school. Learn more about the global certificate programs in Massachusetts schools.

Student engagement, real world experiences, and democracy of access are causes educators can rally around. Global credentials are also something that can benefit teachers.

States like North Carolina are pursuing the credentialing of global educators, schools, and districts rather than awarding student distinctions. The state instituted a Global Educator Digital Badge for Teachers in 2014. The Global Educator Digital Badge is a special badge an educator can earn upon completing a rigorous set of professional development focused on global learning—this also meets the state-mandated requirements for ongoing professional development. In addition, to qualify for the badge, the teacher must complete a capstone project, which consists of creating an instructional unit focused on global content. The capstone project is observed by the supervising administrator and vetted by the school, district, and state for inclusion in North Carolina’s collection of statewide resources. The teacher has up to two years to complete the process. Upon completion, the state awards the digital badge, which goes on their educator profile.

Teacher certificates, like the Global Educator Digital Badge, are a tangible recognition similar to how other countries allow educators to distinguish themselves professionally. Educators who facilitate student certificate programs also speak to the professional rigor and higher-level demands the work places on them. Some educators said that the global certificate program reminded them of what attracted them to classroom teaching in the first place.

If you are a state leader, look at models that could be applicable to your context: Illinois, Georgia, Wisconsin, and North Carolina all have statewide models which allow schools or districts to opt-in.

Districts and regional leaders can check out the grassroots models in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and others. D.C. Public Schools is in the midst of enacting a rigorous system wide program.

If you are a district or building leader, begin to understand what is already happening in your context. Who are the educators who might come on board and support this? What models can you consider and what is right for your context? Check out what’s happening in these schools.

Students and educators are eager to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills for an interconnected world. It is time we give all of them a chance to do so.

Connect with Grace, Longview Foundation, Heather, and the Center for Global Education on Twitter.

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The opinions expressed in Global Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.