What is Mastery Transcript?
Scott Looney, Founder, Mastery Transcript Consortium
Currently, the vast majority of US schools use the Carnegie transcript as a means of communicating students’ high school achievement to universities. This transcript reduces an entire school career to a single sheet of paper. Not only is it difficult to gain a complete picture from such limited information but it can negatively shape students’ education. Students spend more time and energy focused on a achieving a grade and worrying about being measured than focusing on the intellectual pursuit of learning.
When the Hawken School in Cleveland developed a new curriculum with an entrepreneurship element, the school found that the traditional grading system was not the most appropriate way of assessing learning on this program. However, they were constrained by the traditions of college preparation and the transcript format.
Scott Looney, principal of the Hawken School, wanted to redesign the transcript to more accurately reflect the learning of his students. He approached the Deans of Admission for several universities who agreed that the transcript could be improved but that he could not change the system alone. Looney questioned whether it would be different if he had a group of schools all using the same transcript. From this, the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) was born. This growing collective of high schools is organised around the development and dissemination of a new model of assessment: the Mastry Transcript.
The Mastery Transcript differs from the traditional high school transcript and has three distinct layers. The top layer shows the mastery credits achieved by the student. The next layer provides information regarding each credit and the last layer is evidence of achievement. While the top page of the transcript must be standardised throughout the consortium, the mastery credits must be specific to each individual school.
Standard letter grades are eliminated and replaced by mastery credits. Mastery credits cover a range of elements. Some are knowledge-based, others are skill-based or values-based, such as demonstrating leadership or perseverance. Credits can be gained for activities outside the standard school day and evidence can take a variety of forms. By including this evidence, the Mastery Transcript provides more information for universities than the traditional transcript.
By removing the letter grade, students become more willing to take risks as they are less afraid of failure. Rather than working to an arbitrary 10-week deadline to achieve a particular grade, students now are incentivised to do continuous work, engage in deep learning and strive always to do their best. By changing assessment, it is hoped that this will influence pedagogy to include more collaborative, project-based learning without the need to cram in knowledge for an end-of-unit exam.
There are now 120 private schools in the consortium who have all agreed to participate in debate and to consider adopting the Mastery Transcript once it is piloted and launched. While the MTC is currently made up of private schools, the intention is to share this with state schools once it is piloted and the concept has been proven.
Some brand new schools in the consortium are building their curricula around the assessment approach of the Mastery Transcript.
The MTC received a $2 million matching grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation to enable development of the project.
How do you implement it?
Analyse current assessment methods
Any change begins with understanding the current model and where it may be lacking.Read more ›
Many forms of assessment around the world credit knowledge of content, which students may simply memorise and regurgitate, over acquisitions of skills and qualities such as persistence, integrity, resilience, teamwork and leadership. Teachers, schools and even governments may need to collaborate to review current assessment methods and consider how they could be improved.
Consider the Apprenticeship Model
Allowing young people to learn as apprentices connects learning to the real world.Read more ›
Within the Apprenticeship Model, learning is active rather than passive. Learners participate and apply their knowledge practically, instead of just sitting, listening and regurgitating. This model individualises the pace of and approach to learning, with emphasis placed on the process of mastering skills through crediting incremental success every step of the way. The Mastery Transcript aims to support schools in moving towards this model.
Big changes take time
The MTC are very much looking forward to implementation on a much larger scale, but this will be a careful, multi-year process.Read more ›
The goal of the MTC is to pilot the Mastery Transcript first with a small number of schools, while most member schools continue to develop their programs in anticipation of a Mastery Transcript in the next few years. Establishing the Mastery Transcript as an accepted assessment method will take years of working carefully, politically and step-by-step. As such, the Mastery Transcript is not an innovation that most single schools can implement quickly. The MTC’s initial work with most of their member schools to help them reimagine what they would like their programs to be once they have a Mastery Transcript option.
Grow the community
The real innovation in the MTC is the gathering a large group of schools to band together to attract attention and eventually to create enough momentum to push forward a change in student assessment.Read more ›
All of the member schools can approach assessment changes at their own pace, in ways that work with their school culture. The MTC is currently made up of independent schools in the US, but the ultimate aim is for the model to be universal. Those interested in reinventing local or national assessment methods are encouraged to reach out to the MTC for collaboration opportunities, inspiration and advice.
Offer new assessment methods as an option
Some schools, in particular newly founded schools, can implement new assessment methods straight away. But for most established schools, change will be more incremental.Read more ›
The MTC suggests that new students joining their schools have the option to decide, along with their parents, how they will be assessed: traditionally or using the Mastery Transcript. Only students who see the value in this new assessment model will sign up for it, completely voluntarily. Instruction will change over time if more students move towards the Mastery Transcript, but the change must be integrated into the current system rather than immediately replacing it.