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Nonprofit Will Issue 'Digital Badges' for Science Units That Align With Standards

The nonprofit group Achieve, which advocates for better standards and assessments, has launched an interesting new initiative that brings together several trends: curricular alignment, digital badges or credentials, and open educational resources.

The initiative is meant to respond to the continuing challenge of ensuring that, in the nearly 20 states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, the materials used for teaching and learning are aligned to the new expectations.

The NGSS' complex structure includes three "dimensions," generally outlining not just what students should know and be able to do but also the scientific tools and practices they need to master in order to investigate scientific topics. But too often new curricula are listed as aligned when they omit some of those features, said Chad Colby, an Achieve spokesman.

The hope is that more information will help disrupt the often-chummy relationships between publishers and school districts—and that publishers will improve their own offerings in the hopes of earning the badge.

Here's how it works: Publishers of open educational resources or free materials, including teachers and districts, can submit units, and Achieve will have its science peer-review panel vet them according to this framework. Commercial publishers and for-profits can submit materials for review, too, but they'll have to pay a fee, and their submissions will be vetted in-house. (Achieve says the fee will be based on how much they submit and when they want the review complete.)

It's important to note that Achieve is aiming at the level of a curricular units—generally more than one or two lessons, but not a full semester or a soup-to-nuts curriculum. 

Those units that get the highest rating will get to put this badge on their website, and on their printed materials with a URL if they choose. Clicking on the badge will take you to the materials review on Achieve's website, the criteria used, and the evidence of how the unit meets the materials. Reviews that get a lesser rating will not be published online. Snip20180315_2.png

Digital badging has picked up some steam in the K-12 educational world, but usually as a sign of teachers having learned some new skill as part of their professional development. So it's interesting to see the concept applied to curriculum as well.

Elsewhere, EdReports, a separate nonprofit, is currently laying plans to rate entire science curricula for alignment to the NGSS. 

The new tool is the latest example of more attention paid to the quality of curriculum, a movement that, while still in its infancy, is growing.

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