Providence Rhode Island School District uses badges to teach ‘real world’ skills

18 Feb

Moi discussed the concept of badges or certificates as evidence of skill mastery in Do online badges give a more realistic appraisal than grades? In Borrowing from work: Schools teach career mapping, moi said:

One of the goals of education is to give the student sufficient basic skills to be able to leave school and be able to function at a job or correctly assess their training needs. One of the criticisms of the current education system is that it does not adequately prepare children for work or for a career. Caralee J. Adams has written the informative Education Week article, Career Mapping Eyed to Prepare Students for College.

Secondary schools are becoming more intentional about helping students discover their career interests and map out a plan to achieve them.

About half of all states mandate that schools help create individual or student learning plans, and most others have optional programs. Enabling students to make their own plans puts them in the driver’s seat and encourages a long-term look at their course selection so their choices match their career goals, experts say. Often, districts give students online accounts with passwords to track classes; create an electronic portfolio of grades, test scores, and work; research careers; and organize their college search.

The practice is picking up momentum with the increased emphasis on college completion, which research shows is more likely when students take rigorous courses and have a career goal.

But these career maps take an investment in technology and training. Finding time during the school day can be a challenge, and the job of overseeing the process often falls on already stretched counselors, according to researchers and program administrators. In some states, the plans have helped students understand the relevance of what they are learning, prompting higher enrollment in Advanced Placement courses and increased high school graduation rates. Others, meanwhile, have not yet experienced the same payback on their investment. As with many education programs, the rollout is left up to districts, creating a patchwork of approaches throughout the country.

Career Mapping” has been a concept in human resources for awhile.

Nora Flemming reports in the Education Week article, R.I. Students Gaining ‘Badges,’ Credits Outside School:

Many schools encourage students to get real-world experience outside school walls. But very few offer course credit and digital “badges”—virtual records of skills and achievements—for those experiences.

Now, the Providence, R.I., school district is in the middle of an initiative that appears to be breaking new ground in giving academic credit and recognizing skills and achievements out of school.

A collaborative project between a nonprofit organization, the Providence After School Alliance, or PASA, and the 23,500-student Providence district is allowing students to engage in for-credit, badge-earning learning experiences outside school. Examples range from developing and pitching business plans to local venture capital firms to learning how to make Android phone applications at Brown University.

While Providence’s approach—to encourage connections between in- and out-of-school learning and get students more engaged in school—is gaining steam both at the state and district levels throughout the country. The district stands out as one of the first to bridge the two goals by having students receive badges and academic credit for out-of-school experiences….

Providence Programs

A Providence, R.I., school district initiative offers students the opportunity to gain credits and digital badges for activities outside school in the following programs:

Students create, collaborate, present, and study works of art at the Rhode Island Museum of Art.

Students participate in science internships in the community to enrich the study of biotechnology, supported by CVS Pharmacy.

Students learn about environmental issues, challenges, and policies with the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island.

Students improve English skills participating in hands-on language-skill exercises with a local organization, Inspiring Minds.

Students work on public speaking and debate skills in a debate league, assisted by college mentors from Brown University.

Students participate in a discussion group on civic engagement and service with Serve Rhode Island, a community-service organization.

Students create articles, photos, and videos about their community and schools, while working with Inspiring Minds.

Students learn video-editing, photography, and Google-sketch skills in an arts education program called AS220.

Students receive training from Young Voices, a youth-advocacy organization, on leadership and communication skills.

Students learn how to create Android phone applications in a computer science program at Brown University.

Students participate in a dance-technique class with a local dance company, Fusionworks, including potential rehearsals with local dance companies.

Students learn video production and editing skills at the Rhode Island Film Collaborative.

Students work with Social Venture Partners of Rhode Island to develop business plans and pitch ideas to investors for seed funding.

Students learn engineering skills while designing projects related to flight, at Brown University.

SOURCE: Providence After School Alliance

Here is what the Providence After School Alliance, or PASA says about the badges:

Tracking Middle School Passions Through High School 

By the time AfterZone participants reach 8th grade, they’ve taken programs that allow them to learn about and explore everything from environmental science, to sports, to video game design, and much, much more. Some AfterZone youth explore multiple interests or take part in leadership opportunities, but many repeatedly take the same types of programs—expressing an interest in a specific learning pathway!

When AfterZone youth graduate 8th grade, their badge history can “unlock” access to things like first choice for high school-level ELOs, paid internships through the Hub, and more. A young person’s badge history also allows PASA and the Hub to personalize their high school ELO experience, introducing 8th grade students to high school ELO program providers they might be interested in based on their collection of badges.

Digital Badges Form Portfolio of Real World Skills

Until recently, it’s often been difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements gained outside of school. Digital badges provide a way for young people to get recognition for the skills and experiences they gain in PASA’s after-school and expanded learning programs (think a digital version of a Girl Scout badge), but also allow PASA to better see emerging passions, interests, and skills. At the high school level, badges act as public signifiers of the skills each student has acquired outside of the classroom.

Potential employers, community members, and even college admissions staff can go to a student’s online profile to see their portfolio of badges—linked to the work and projects done to achieve the badges—to get a holistic understanding of the student that goes beyond the classroom and beyond grades.

Imagine graduating high school with a dynamic portfolio of passions, projects, and skills that stretches all the way back to 6th grade, that connect you to future opportunities personalized to your experiences and interests!

PASA’s digital badge system recognizes, motivates, validates, and connects learning interests and achievements of youth beginning in 6th grade, creating a seamless system of learning pathways that usher youth through middle school, high school, and onward to college, career and life.

PASA’s digital badge initiative is supported through HASTAC/Macarthur and supported by Mozilla Open Badge initiative.

To learn more and to see it in action, go to

Schools have to prepare students to think critically and communicate clearly, the label for the skill set is less important than the fact that students must acquire relevant knowledge.


Poor people and school choice: The Cristo Rey work/school model

Study: What skills are needed for ’21st-century learning?’

Critical thinking is an essential trait of an educated person

Borrowing from work: Schools teach career mapping

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