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Global Diplomas: Academic programs that develop skills for work and productive lives in an interconnected world.

  • Periodical
  • School Administrator. Jan2019, Vol. 76 Issue 1, p21-25. 5p. 5 Color Photographs.
  • Article
  • The article reports on the academic programs that aims to develop skills for productive lives and work in a global economy such as the Global Education Achievement Certificate of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Topics mentioned include the state funds for the academic programs, the insights of Christine Damm of the Ripon Area School District on the importance of academic programs, and the promotion of educational equality and global education.
Full Text


Global Diplomas: Academic programs that develop skills for work and productive lives in an interconnected world 

Wisconsin began a great experiment during the 2013-14 school year: What if the stale designed a global certificate for high school students and turned it over to local school districts to manage?

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction created the Global Education Achievement Certificate to encourage students to acquire the skills that will allow them to work in a global economy find be productive global citizens. Students earning the certificate are known as Global Scholars.

The opt-in program for districts (80 out of 421 across Wisconsin currently use the program) is structured like certificate programs at the collegiate level. It 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. By allowing districts and schools to take the lead, existing resources can be highlighted and students can be encouraged to take advantage, without having to spend additional district funds.

A Natural Fit

The 1,630-student Ripon Area School District in central Wisconsin joined the program in '2016. Ripons mission to "Inspire learners, engage-the community and enrich the world" was a natural fit with global education certification for high school students.

"The program validates the global partnership we have established with our sister schools in China and encourages students to enroll in classes with global content in the arts, sciences and humanities," says Christine Damm, the district's director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Anecdotal evidence and feedback from across the state suggest that global certification programs help schools to distinguish themselves in attracting and retaining students and families who value language, and intercultural and global learning. Students value the degree to which the Global Education Achievement Certificate program allows them to personalize and focus their learning through an area of interest and relevance connectd with a global lens.

Working toward greater equity in access to these critical skills that are in high demand within our linguistically and culturally diverse workplaces, communities and world is a worthy charge for education leaders today.

Call them what you like -- a global certificate, global distinction, global seal or something else -- since Wisconsin launched its version, we have observed a significant increase in the number of school districts and states offering honors to students across the nation to recogniw their global competence.

Making the Case

What do we mean by global competence? Global competence is possession of the knowledge, skills and dispositions to understand and art creatively on issues of global significance

Last year, the U.S. exported $2 trillion in goods and services to jnst about every country and municipality on the planet. An interesting detail about that figure is that 98 pen'ent of the exporting companies had fewer than 500 employees. They arc present in every state, and those companies are located in urban, suburban and rural school districts. Preparing students to make global-local connections in work and life isn't just for kids in Wisconsin. It's suitable for all students, and many states and districts are responding accordingly.

Consider Washington, D.C. If yon wander through the downtown, von will encounter diplomats, business people, tourists and students who come from the four corners of the globe. A recent study of the region by New American Economy showed a 148 percent increase in job postings requiring bilingualism. In the 2017-18 school year, D.C. Public Schools, recognizing the importance of certifying their graduates as competitive for this work environment launched a Global Scholar Certificate program.

Like Wisconsin, budgetary considerations were top of mind, and the district designed the program to be cast-neutral by mapping and utilizing existing global education resources. To get its global certificate program off to a good start, the district focused on students who already had study abroad and foreign language experiences and had satisfied most or all of the other graduation requirements.

Now, D.C. Public Schools is working with school-based coordinators to recruit more students and ensure the rigors of the certificate program are being met

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 through 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.

► Demonstrated Evidence of Global Competence

Program designs vary, as do personalized student experiences, but they all require students to demonstrate their global competence.

Expanding Access

With so many competing priorities -- academic standards, college admissions, state and district assessments -- why add another program to an already crowded plate in rural and suburban districts? One answer is that students, educators and policymakers alike support the option of allowing students to obtain credentials beyond traditional means. Today, some form of global certification is available as an opt-in in almost one quarter of states, and additional districts are looking to adopt this type of program.

Global certificate programs help engage students in real-world learning that's relevant to their future. The Illinois Global Scholar project requires a capstone project. Students spend one semester exploring their idea and another semester taking action on their research. This pushes students to dig deeply into researching topics of interest and raising their voices on issues that matter mast to them. While the topics differ, the action-based research, communication and collaboration skills are universal and prepare students well for the academic rigors of college.

Global education certificates also provide more equitable opportunities to pursue different types of achievement than standardized assessments allow. We see an early trend of elite public and private schools moving away from some types of advanced credentialing, notably Advanced Placement courses. At the same time, students are actively pursuing opportunities to differentiate themselves and integrate global relevance into their school experiences.

Hingham High School in eastern Massachusetts runs both a global citizenship program for deeply involved students who want to pursue an academic credential and a global citizenship club that is open to all students with an interest in global affairs.

About 940 high schools nationwide participate in the International Baccalaurate program. IB schools provide another opportunity for local school leaders to build equitable access to global understanding. In Fairfax County, Va., George C. Marshall High School has a significant percentage of seniors seeking the rigorous full IB diploma, which requires a set of courses, an essay and community service. Recognizing that the LB diploma is not the right course of study for every student, George Marshall leadership instead set a goal of having 100 percent of students take at least one IB course arid exam. Last years senior class attained more than ,90 percent. Most notable is how much the gap has closed among white, non-white and students with disabilities participating in IB course work.

To make progress in shrinking accessibility gaps requires a clear plan to do so and benefits from continuity of leadership.

Educator Benefits

Student engagement, real-world experiences and democracy of access are causes educators can rally around. Globed credentials also benefit teachers. The Illinois Global Scholar model was actually created by a few volunteer educators from around the state who are passionately about preparing their students for careers and civic engagement. While they could have spun the concept off into a nonprofit and worked from outside the system, these amazing teachers are committed both to their students and to remaining in the classroom. Shepherding this work in their respective districts and their state serves the bigger purpose that drew many of them to devote their lives to educating students in the first place.

North Carolina is offering global educator status at the school and district levels rather than individual student distinctions. The state instituted a Global Educator Digital Badge for Teachers in 2014. Educators must complete a rigorous set of professional development focused on global learning, which also meets the state-mandated requirements for ongoing professional development, and a capstone project. The capstone consists of creating an instructional unit focused on global content, which then is delivered and observed by the supervising administrator and vetted by the school, district and slate for inclusion in North Carolina's collection of statewide resources. The teacher has up to two years lo complete the process, at which time the state awards the digital badge and places it on the teachers educator profile.

The global school and global district distinctions in North Carolina enable schools to apply for distinction by the state board of education. The rigorous, evidence-based process is a tangible look at comprehensive services for all students, professional development for all teachers and school/community partnerships that produce "globally competitive graduates."

Students and educators are eager to demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills for an interconnected world. It's time we give them the opportunity to do so.

How an Urban District Sends Students Abroad

In writer of his junior year, a student named Jonathan (a pseudonym) was shot in his Washington, D.C, neighborhood. Doctors told him he would never walk again. He was 15. Six months later. Jonathan boarded a plane to Peru, on his way to visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.

"I don't want to be a stereotypical statistic," he wrote in his application to the District of Columbia Public Schools Study Abroad program. "(The world is so much bigger than Southeast D.C…. Going on this trip will expose me to new things I've never seen, introduce meto new people, teach me about how those people are living, and more."

The district's unusual study abroad program Is a fully funded global travel program (! launched in 2016 with about $2 milion In private funding and sustained with city government funds in FY '18. D CPS Study Abroad makes global learning through travel equitably accessible to middle and high school students, such as Jonathan, who are studying world languages and are curious about new people and places.

Cajoling Participation

The Institute for International Education's annual Open Doors report in 2018 showed only 28 percent of study abroad participants nationwide identify as people of color, putting DCPS at the forefront of diversification efforts. An urban district servil g 82 percent students of color, with three-fourths of students eligible to receive free and reduced-price meals. DCPS values equity in its work. The most recent evaluation of the DCPS Study Abroad program indicated that 91 percent of participants identified as students of color and 85 percent were low-income.

Studente apply to DCPS Study Abroad. To recruit them, the district involves school-based educators called travel ambassadors. They are trained to recruit select and prepare students for global travel, and they accompany students on their global adventures. Leveraging the trusting relationships they have within their school community, the ambassadors reach out to students for whom the concept of travel Is new and sometimes hard to imagine. Community engagement events educate families about the program, and trip-specific pre-departure meetings allow students and families to learn more about their destination and travel generally.

In schools and neighborhoods where a culture of travel may be nascent, the travel ambassadors communicate the benefits of global travel -- by highlighting the advantages of practicing world language skills in context, for example -- and educate their audience about the process of travel -- by, for instance, explaining the steps Involved when applying for a passport

Cost Barriers

Travel is costly. Like many school districts, the D.C. Public Schools balances considerable needs against limited resources. Why should the district spend thousands of dollars to send a group of 20 8th graders on a language immersion trip to Costa Rica? Why fund costly airfare and tourist visas associated with facilitating a service learning trip to China for 20 high schoolers? In a district where fewer than 40 percent of students are proficient In math and literacy, according to 2018 PARCC data, some may argue this money could be used well elsewhere.

In response, we note that academic Interventions, by and large, are expensive and do not always achieve the desired outcomes. As an Intervention, DCPS Study Abroad is surprisingly cost-effective, particularly in light of the range of positive outcomes associated with the program. Researchers at George Washington University's Graduate School of Education and Human Development found participants exhibited enhanced sense of self-Identity, engagement in learning, self-confidence and leadership, positive peer relationships and motivation to seek global college and career opportunities.

By removing cost barriers that ground would-be travelers, DCPS Is transforming the way student travel Is discussed in Washington and elsewhere. To date, DCPS Study Abroad has provided fuly funded travel to 18 countries on five continents for more than 1,400 students and educators. DCPS doesn't have to be the only district doing this transformative work at scale. In fact, we hope it won't be.

Where To Start on Global Certification

As a first step, take time to understand what already is happening In your context. Who are the educators who might be doing good work In this area who could come on board and support you? Who are the partners In your community that need globally ready graduates? How do parents perceive career and college options for their students?

Those working at the school district level should check out North Carolina's Global Ready District Distinction program ( There you'll find:

► K12 world language opportunities for all students;

► Pathways for teachers, leaders and administrators to achieve state board of education-recognized bridging;

► Career-ready employer requirements;

► Global schod partnerships; and

► Local school board resolutions and plans on global education.

In addition, three other states also offer school district-level models that could apply to your context

► Georgia (http/

► Illinois (http://globaledcertlficate.otg/illlnais)

► Wisconsin (

Regional leaders can explore grassroots models in:

► Connecticut

► Ohio

► Pennsylvania

As you explore relevant models, consider existing local-global connections and look to these examples for more ideas on what makes sense in your setting.

PHOTO (COLOR): A District of Columbia Public Schools student visits the Giant Panda Conservation Center in Chengdu, China, as a participant in the district's study abroad program.

PHOTO (COLOR): A high school student in the District of Columbia Public Schools' study abroad program gazes out over his host community in Peru.

PHOTO (COLOR): Jennifer Manise

PHOTO (COLOR): Chinese and American students jointly tackled hands-on STEM projects during the Ripon Area School District's Summer 2018 International Engineering, Science and Leadership Camp in Wisconsin.



HEATHER SINGMASTER is director of the Center for Global Education at the Asia Sotiety in New York, N.Y. E-mail: Twitter: ahsing master

JENNIFER MANISE is executive director of the Longview Foundation in Falls Church, Va.

KAYLA GATAUCA is manager of global programs for the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C. E-mail:

LAURA C. ENGFL IS associate professor of international education and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Additional Information
923110 Administration of Education Programs
611710 Educational Support Services
611699 All Other Miscellaneous Schools and Instruction
611110 Elementary and Secondary Schools

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