Digital Badges and Your Child’s Future

| October 1, 2015 | Reply

It is becoming very clear that adopting Common Core is about a whole lot more than just a ‘higher standard” for Michigan students but was the catalyst to a fundamental transformation in education in our state and the country.  One aspect of the transformation that is relatively unknown to most people is how data relates to learning.  Data privacy has been addressed but what is not widely known is how data codes and data badges build the student education pathway from prenatal to career.  The Michigan Department of Education referred to data badges and credentials as being integral to the reforms in their Lansing information session held this week on the proposed science and social studies standards.

This post is written to help readers understand the current education reforms and to provide strategies stop it.  Please read it in its entirety and take action!

In 2011, Arne Duncan gave a speech “Digital Badges for Learning.”  He said,

This administration has a systemic, cradle-to-career vision for reform. It begins with stronger, more inclusive early childhood programs, transitions to a world-class P-12 system, and culminates with college that must be more accessible and affordable for every student.

We’re excited that, this year, this competition will serve as a catalyst to advance the potential of digital badges. Badges can help engage students in learning, and broaden the avenues for learners of all ages to acquire and demonstrate – as well as document and display – their skills.

Badges can help speed the shift from credentials that simply measure seat time, to ones that more accurately measure competency. We must accelerate that transition. And, badges can help account for formal and informal learning in a variety of settings.

In Duncan’s speech he also referenced the MacArthur Foundation and their collaborative work to to create digital badges  The P-20 educational system is based on measuring core competencies through curricula and assessments leading to digital badges and credentials to validate their learning.   Let’s unpack the key terms:


Governor Snyder said, “I want to emphasize a vision of P-20.  A PRENATAL to life long learning.  We have to get beyond the old models of saying there are silos for  for K12,  silos for community college, for higher ed,  for preschool.  They shouldn’t be separate.  They can be separate institutions.  not to threaten the institutions. But shouldn’t we make it a seamless system.  Where a student in that system doesn’t have to figure out all these tough choices but can just focus on success…and understanding it starts even at the prenatal stage and looking at is the expectant mother getting the right diet, the right primary care…”


Competencies are defined by explicit learning objectives that empower students. Students receive timely, differentiated support, and they advance by demonstrating evidence with meaningful assessments via mastery, not seat time.  (Source: iNACOL)

Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, C3 Framework for Social Studies Standards, and any future standards in other subjects are the explicit learning objectives.  The competencies can measure academic skills like adding and subtracting or soft skills like teamwork, perseverance, and grit.   Each objective has a numerical code assigned to it.   Competency based learning reforms extend to higher education.  “The University of Southern New Hampshire’s “College for America” program became the first competence-based higher education program to become eligible for federal financial aid.”  (Source: Slate)

Digital Badges (micro-credential):

From the MacArthur Foundation:

“Digital badges are an assessment and credentialing mechanism that is housed and managed online. Badges are designed to make visible and validate learning in both formal and informal settings, and hold the potential to help transform where and how learning is valued.”

As students meet core competencies or strands of the common core, next generation science standards, or social studies standard  digital badges are awarded. “The badges themselves are graphical representations of an accomplishment – basically the digital version of a felt patch a Boy or Girl Scout might earn.”  (Source: Inside Higher Ed)

The connection between standards and digital badges is essential to understanding how a student progresses along the P-20 education system.  (Read more at Alliance for Education Excellence)

Blogger Peter Green asked a very helpful question in an article published at the Huffington Post, “Are Common Core Standards really data tags?”   Green wrote,

“If we all just taught to our own local standards, the data noise would be too great. The Data Overlords need us all to be standardized, to be using the same set of tags. That is also why no deviation can be allowed. Okay, we’ll let you have 15 percent over and above the standards. The system can probably tolerate that much noise. But under no circumstances can you change the standards — because that would be changing the national student data tagging system, and THAT we can’t tolerate.

Green is correct and the tags are not limited to Common Core. The proposed new science and social studies standards have a reference code associated with them.   The draft of the proposed Michigan Science Standards explains the code K-PS3-2:

Each performance expectation (PE) code starts out with the grade level, followed by the disciplinary core idea (DCI) code, and ending with the sequence of number of the PE within the DCI.  So for example, K-PS3-2 is a kindergarten PE, linked to the 3rd physical science DCI (ie: Energy) and the second in the sequence of the kindergarten P#s linked to the PS3.  These codes are used in the MSS and NGSS Science Resources to identify relevant connections for standards.
Data codes are associated with digital badges and awarded to the student upon mastery of a specific standard.  These codes are NOT unique Michigan codes but common to any state that adopts the standards.   This allows any digital badges and credentials to be portable and recognized across state lines and paves the way for a national education system from P-20.   Common standards proponents say that standards will not determine curricula but that is NOT true.  Common data codes and badges insures that curricula will be strictly aligned, taught, and tested.
The Michigan State Board of Education considered a grant proposal last month for the creation of a digital badge for the proposed social studies standards.   Personal and project-based learning is dependent on digital badges to insure fidelity to the standards no matter where the child is learning or who is teaching.   Recently, the Afterschool Alliance awarded a grant to Mchigan to pilot STEM badges. 
The Michigan After-School Partnership, which will work with other organizations, including the Michigan Department of Education, to pilot STEM-themed badges for students and staff in out-of-school time programs

Education Week reports that Maryland, Oregon, and Ohio received similar grants funded by the MacArthur Foundation; the same foundation that collaborated with the US DofEd in 2011 and referenced in Secretary Duncan’s speech.   The digital badges will lead to the award of a credential in their career pathway.  In the fall of 2014, Michigan proposed the first STEM credential in the country. We opposed the credential because it creates a defined career pathway for students to meet workforce demands.   The bills (HB4284/4285 and SB 169/170)  are currently in the Committee on Workforce and Talent Development.

Education reformers believe that digital badges will allow a student to pave their own learning pathway.  That is not accurate when each brick in their learning pathway is tied to a code determined by common standards and leads to a career credential defined by a workforce committee.

Michigan parents must fight to retain control over their child’s education or lose control over their future to educrats who will determine their future career pathway based on data and workforce demands.   Repealing Common Core is necessary but no longer enough.  Parent must OPPOSE the adoption of the draft of the science and social studies standards and OPPOSE the creation of career pathway credentials for students.

A student’s dreams NOT their data should make the “tough choices” and determine their future.

Action Steps:

The Michigan Department of Education is still holding information sessions. More dates have been added.  Attend the meetings and voice your concerns.  Contact the MDE and let them know you oppose adopting the draft of the science and social studies standards which include common data reference codes.  The State Board of Education could adopt the new standards as early as October or November meeting.

2.  Contact the House Education Committee and tell them you support HB 4144 to prevent the MDE from creating science standards based on the Next Generation Science Standards.

3.  Contact the House Workforce and Talent Development Committee and tell them you oppose HB 4284/4285 and SB 169/170 which creates a STEM credential based on the Next Generation Science Standards and a career pathway for STEM in Michigan.

Category: Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Karen Braun is a writer and conference speaker on issues related education and family life. Her work has appeared in the American Thinker, Crosswalk, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, WatchDog Wire, and various other websites and magazines. She has also appeared on TV and radio venues. Along with blogging, Karen also enjoys homeschooling, running marathons, and spending time with her husband, their six children, and two grand children. For more information please contact Karen at spunkyhomeschool at gmail dot com