Rethinking the Transcript: High Schools Join New Consortium

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A group of private schools wants to remove letter grades from the college admission process.

Instead, members of the newly formed Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) would submit reports to universities outlining how well students demonstrate mastery of key academic concepts. Other qualities, such as creativity and persistence, could also be highlighted on the new transcript.

The model is inspired in part by competency-based education, a method where students progress through the curriculum based on their demonstration of knowledge and skills, rather than seat time. Consortium leaders say each member will have the freedom to determine which “performance areas” will be included on their school’s transcript.

NACAC research shows that grades matter most in college admission. But many counselors say the resulting pressure to attain perfect marks undermines student learning and development.

“The problem with a grade is it doesn’t feel like coaching and guidance to kids – it feels like a judgment,” Scott Looney, MTC founder and board chair told The Christian Science Monitor. “Kids are not focusing … on what they need to learn. They are just worrying about what the teacher wants from them.”

The concept of a grade-free transcript is gaining support. The consortium held its inaugural meeting in February and now boasts more than 100 members.

Last month, the Edward E. Ford Foundation awarded a $2 million grant to the group. Consortium members — which include The Blake School (MN), Phillips Academy (MA), and Cranbrook Schools (MI) — have pledged to raise money to match the grant.

“We want every student’s accomplishments and humanity to be visible and valued,” MTC Executive Director Patricia Russell said in a press release. “By focusing more on mastery than on a broken instrument that no longer serves students, teachers or college admissions professionals, the MTC hopes to change the relationship between preparation for college and college admissions for the betterment of students.”

Learn more about MTC.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at mstegmeir@nacacnet.org.

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