As 2020 comes to a close, the MTC team is enormously grateful for the opportunity to work with our incredible network of educators and learners in hundreds of member school communities across the U.S. and around the world.
Below are some of the highlights of our work during this unpredictable and difficult year. As a New Year begins, our focus will remain on the needs of youth by supporting educators as they increase equity and access to deep learning experiences. We will also continue outreach to college admission officers as they begin to receive more Mastery Transcripts that open up opportunities for each and every student — from all backgrounds, locations, and types of schools — to have their unique strengths, abilities, interests, and histories fostered, understood, and celebrated.
Where We’ve Been:
Success in College Admissions — The First Two Years
Recognition continues to grow that access to higher education remains deeply uneven due to inequities across the K-12 and postsecondary spaces. Evidence and experience suggest that current admission practices that depend heavily on test scores and GPA as a proxy for student readiness can contribute to diminished college opportunities especially for students of color and those from low-income households.
The first two years of use of the Mastery Transcript in college admissions have far exceeded early expectations. Even before COVID, many colleges were actively building more holistic admission practices that prioritize authentic measures like performance assessments and contextualized student work and that trend has only accelerated.
Outreach to Colleges
The MTC is well positioned to partner with colleges in helping to shift admission practices. Recent progress includes:
- Individual outreach to the hundreds of colleges expected to have at least one applicant with a Mastery Transcript this year,
- Weekly information sessions for admission officers with Edgar Montes, the MTC’s Director of Higher Education Engagement,
- Surveys and follow-up interviews with admission offices who received at least one applicant with a Mastery Transcript in 2019-2020,
- Development of an online training module for admission officers to help guide them as they prepare to receive and review an increasing number of applicants with Mastery Transcripts in future years.
High Schools Using the Mastery Transcript:
- In 2019-2020, the first four member schools (3 public, 1 private) launched the Mastery Transcript and used it as the official transcript for their graduating students,
- All of the 100+ colleges that received at least one Mastery Transcript were able to assess the applicants,
- Students had 85 offers of admission from about 60 different two- and four-year colleges plus post-graduate internships, military roles, and employment opportunities. Here are learner quotes and more info on the 2019-2020 pilot year.
- Sixteen high schools (8 public, 8 private) are using the Mastery Transcript for graduating students in 2020-2021 and we expect hundreds of colleges will therefore make admission decisions for some of their applicants using Mastery Transcripts this year.
Membership Growth Continues
As of December 2020 there are more than 360 public and private member schools with close to a third of the members being U.S. public schools.
MTC has forged early regional partnerships that have facilitated funding for public schools to work with us. For example, the Utah Department of Education and member districts in South Carolina, North Carolina, and North Dakota, are providing membership dues for their schools through federal innovation funding and grants to the district or schools.
To date, every school that has asked to join the MTC has been welcomed whether or not they had funding to pay annual member dues in a given fiscal year. The imperatives to address inequity, rethink core competencies, assessment, grading, testing, and reporting on student learning are all leading even more schools to look at the MTC as a potential support network and structural change framework.
Working with our Members: Journey to Mastery
Led by Susie Bell, Senior Director of Member School Engagement, the network of MTC educators continues to expand and strengthen. Through regularly scheduled meetings and the community portal, members continue to share resources and learn together. Educators are connected to one another virtually through the MTC community, an online platform that offers forum discussion spaces, resource sharing, direct networking features as well as event registration. With this tool, our members near and far can learn from one another in ways they never could before.
Moving the Spring 2020 and then Fall 2020 Member School Symposia online allowed them to be far more accessible for member schools. A highlight of the October 2020 symposium included a “Fireside Chat” between Stacy Caldwell and NACAC CEO, Angel Perez, a longstanding member of the MTC’s Higher Education Advisory Group.
The program also featured workshops both live and recorded with a focus on supporting member schools along the Journey to Mastery Learning amid the context of COVID-19 and calls for racial justice. Workshop facilitators included: Envision Learning Partners, Global Online Academy, Great Schools Partnership, Greg Curtis, Doris Korda, Jay McTighe, NGLC and Emily Rinkema.
Professional Learning for Larger Districts & State Members
As we continue to welcome larger districts and states, we are providing district-level programming. In addition to the full menu of MTC’s offerings, larger districts are also offered targeted support designed for leaders as they become more familiar with the Mastery Transcript, building coherence around their planning and accelerating each district’s readiness.
Opportunities and Challenges Ahead
The Transcript Reader and Builder
With the first and highly successful Pilot Year of creating and using Mastery Transcripts for college admissions completed, and then the launch of the enterprise Transcript Builder in June 2020, the MTC has added a range of new features to the Transcript Builder and Transcript Reader based on feedback from users.
Recent enhancements recommended by users already added for Fall 2020 include:
- Shared Mastery Credit Library,
- Expanded School Profile that is embedded within each Mastery Transcript,
- My Colleges list where learners indicate where they are applying to college (and where the MTC should target outreach during this admission season).
Future additions in design for 2021:
- My Colleges dashboard with aggregate data for learners and educators on total number of Mastery Transcripts sent and to which college admission offices in a given year,
- Administrator tools will include an expanded dashboard and tools as we prepare for use in larger schools and districts,
- Students in Context: Admission readers are looking for more tools that facilitate their ability to construct a narrative about a student’s academic performance within the context of the learning environment. Additionally, they are looking to understand student growth. We are working on a number of designs and tools.
- Smart/Searchable Content: Admission readers have asked that we make the evidence portion of the Mastery Transcript searchable by keywords relevant to them. For example, some would like to see a filtered display of only “writing samples” while others might like to see more information on “community engagement.”
New Tools for Supporting Day-to-Day Mastery Learning
The MTC staff and member schools across the network continue to provide guidance to one another on best resources, practices, and tools. In addition, the MTC is currently working to identify existing gaps and will be prototyping and testing a range of new tools that may help interested schools to overcome hurdles and accelerate their journeys. Member school leaders frequently note that they are looking for novel ways to offer readily accessible professional learning, more sample activities and projects designed for mastery-focused schools, and some that are flexible for both remote and in-person learning. Members are also asking about tools that might help to guide learners working in teams outside of traditional classrooms and enhanced systems for tracking feedback and learner progress toward mastery across more varied types of learning experiences.
Mastery Learning & Upcoming Research
In addition to Member Symposia, the MTC continues to expand the library of resources and training modules available to member schools. The next new course, “How to Assess Mastery: Proven Practices for Equitable Anytime, Anywhere Learning” will launch in early 2021.
The schools currently adopting the Mastery Transcript have already implemented mastery-based learning systems. Following the first group, the next wave of schools are currently mapping the change process to begin using the Mastery Transcript in the next few years and they are eager to join in helping the MTC to document the impact for learners.
MTC’s research efforts will aim to:
- document the MTC sending school practices, report on student outcomes in these schools, and compare them to similar schools that are not mastery-based,
- develop, implement, and document “mastery learning implementation pathways” that member schools that have more traditional systems can use to transform to a mastery learning system,
- identify a list of skills that are readily presented and verifiable on the Mastery Transcript and that are reliable predictive indicators of college readiness, persistence in, and completion of a range of post-secondary programs.