There is a quiet buzz going on in the education world and it surrounds the new proposed Mastery Transcript (MT) for high schools. So why is there not more of a buzz? Because it is still under creation, but what the MT proposes to do is turn the idea of grades and expectations upside down.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why is there even a conversation about a change to how schools determine grades in the first place? First of all grades are an antiquated system based on memorization and repetition, focusing student learning on acquiring information but not necessarily on making meaning from what they learn. Second, grades are based on what a teacher believes is worthy of an A, B, C etc.… Third, grades imply that academic performance is extrinsic rather than internal motivation. In other words, students seek validation from a grade rather than being internally motivated to learn and apply. Finally, grades do not mirror what happens in the real world. Bosses don’t give grades, but do give performance reviews based on skills that relate to tasks related to that particular job.
So what does the MT hope to do? As an example one school might determine skill attainment in eight (8) different proposed areas of Available Credit:
- Analytical and Creative Thinking
- Complex Communication
- Leadership and Teamwork
- Digital and Quantitative Literacy
- Global Perspective
- Adaptability, Initiative and Risk Taking
- Integrity and Ethical Decision Making
- Habits of Mind
Each of the eight areas has sub-criteria detailing the evidence needed to prove competency in each. As example, under Leadership and Teamwork some of the criteria are to initiate new ideas, lead through influence or build trust, resolve conflict etc… Under Habits of Mind – contentiousness, creativity, love of learning would be some examples. As students show competency in each sub area or area, they Earn Credit, adding to their score in that specific area.
Further along the development of the MT is an online electronic transcript whereby a college or university could not only see the attainment, but dive deep into the area, see what standards the school has set where and how a student has performed based on specific evidence.
Yes, I know this all sounds complex and confusing. At the moment there are 18 schools that founded the Mastery Transcript Consortium and another 140 schools who are members. A number of schools are piloting the MT and looking at further developing and enhancing the platform. Some of the top independent schools in the US have signed on, from Choate, Latin School of Chicago, to Brooks, Milton, Phillips Andover, Phillips Exeter and Thacher. Internationally, Singapore American School, The American School of Sao Paulo and King’s Academy sit on the list. Schools that are piloting the program are allowing students and their families the choice of a traditional A, B, C transcript or the MT.
What is the bottom line? This is actually a very exciting turn to what makes education interesting. Schools will still teach, but how they teach will help students be better prepared for their future. It will de-stress the learning process as students become more focused on mastery skill attainment rather than grades. It changes the role of teacher to coach as a student moves forward, and interactions between students and teachers become more positive. It allows for individual pacing and incremental success rather than win or lose. It will give credence to project and experiential based learning but be grounded in skills needed in future careers. Most importantly it brings real world expectations into the classroom.
For more information on the Mastery Transcript please visit the website: http://mastery.org/