There is a growing movement in education toward valuing richer, deeper learning for students, and a growing recognition that current college admissions policies — those that rely on grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test scores — do not reflect the broader competencies that student’s need for success. Rather than learning how to work collaboratively, think critically, and solve complex problems, too many students experience learning that focuses on short-term memorization and regurgitation of facts and fails to develop critical, 21st-century skills, including metacognitive, social, and emotional skills.
“What we know is that being prepared for success in college and career requires a deep sense of purpose and self; skills for lifelong learning; and the ability to apply skills to meaningful work, challenges, and opportunities,” said Stacy Caldwell, CEO of MTC. “Our MTC member schools are blazing a better path for their thousands of students and for every student out there, many of whom have been underserved by the current system. The Mastery Transcript is the lever for change that education needs right now.”
The traditional transcript reinforces outdated modes of education by constraining innovation, limiting learning to single subjects and seat time, and impeding the pursuit of educational equity and excellence. The new Mastery Transcript is the mastery-based alternative to the traditional high school transcript that enables schools to transform their education models. It supports each student in learning for today’s world, in exploring and pursuing varied pathways to futures that sustain and compel them, and in being recognized for acquiring and mastering skills both inside and outside of school. Admissions readers and employers get a unique portrait of what students can do, across a wide array of critical skills and in a consistent format that is easy to read and shared across MTC's network of member schools.
Instead of grades and GPA, the Mastery Transcript features a Credit Profile of the student’s mastery credits earned during their high school career, along with rich evidence of knowledge and skills that support and showcase their work in a compelling, visual display. It also includes a member-curated library of mastery credits that member schools can draw upon and use to share their full range of mastery credits with one another.
“The digital transcript that MTC has introduced and is using across their network of schools is a transparent and authentic tool that provides evidence of what students know and what students can do across a range of competencies over time as they evolve and grow,” said Monica Martinez, director of strategic initiatives at the Learning Policy Institute and an MTC Advisor. “The transcript goes beyond a one-dimensional grade as an indicator of a student’s academic progress over time. For students to be successful in college, career, and life in the 21st century, they need to develop an expanded set of competencies and demonstrate they can transfer or apply these competencies to other disciplines and situations. With that, we need the kind of transcript MTC has developed that provides detailed and expansive evidence of student learning and growth.”
During the 2019-2020 MTC pilot year, four MTC member schools sent out Mastery Transcripts to a wide range of two and four-year colleges and universities. Dozens of colleges and universities reviewed applicants with Mastery Transcripts and all were able to use it as part of their admissions process. There were a total of 85 offers of admission from nearly 60 colleges, including Arizona State University, Auburn University, Caltech, Colorado State, Harvey Mudd College, Merrimack College, Northeastern University, Reed College, University of Idaho, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Washington Seattle, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, University of Vermont, Washington State University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, among others. While students’ backgrounds, schools, and ambitions were diverse and varied, one thing was clear: their learning experiences and the transcript itself helped them to showcase who they are, what they can contribute to a complex world, and how a new transcript can bring important change.
“I love how the Mastery Transcript is a living document that can really reflect your full high school career,” said a graduating senior at Gibson Ek High School, who was one of the first students to use the new transcript for college admissions. “The Mastery Transcript was part of a culture that is really cultivated at our school, where students are encouraged to develop and express their own interests.”
In the coming year, MTC will at least triple the number of member schools using the Mastery Transcript, with students from more than a dozen member schools already planning to use it as they apply to college in 2020-2021. Looking ahead MTC plans to continue designing for equity and improving features of the Mastery Transcript, in partnership with member schools and a range of college admissions offices and employers, to ensure the transcript can meet every student where they are.
Building upon MTC's prototype and pilot systems, the Mastery Transcript version 1.0 is now a fully-featured, enterprise-class system comprised of two, core applications--Mastery Transcript® Builder and Mastery Transcript® Reader--that support intuitive and powerful user experiences. The new Mastery Transcript Builder is highly scalable and secure, able to support MTC's fast growing network of member schools.
"Our goal when designing the new Mastery Transcript Builder was to make it intuitive and easy for all our users to manage MORE of everything,” said Mike Flanagan, Chief Product Officer at MTC. “Our school admins can manage larger groups of educators and learners, our MTC staff can manage our expanding network of member schools, and all MTC members can browse--and leverage--what is now a fast-growing, crowd-sourced library of competency-based, criterion-referenced, essential skills for K-12 learners."
The Mastery Transcript Reader incorporates improvements based on feedback from admissions officers across the country who received Mastery Transcripts last year and is available in an interactive format, as well as in a PDF format that can be easily scanned and stored.
“The Mastery Transcript has come so far and it looks really really good,” said Zina Evans, who is vice president of enrollment management and associate provost at University of Florida and also an MTC Board member. “You have really captured here the feedback we have given on how admissions could read it better. You now have a product that displays student information beautifully and gives a lot of information in a really holistic way.”
The new Mastery Transcript Builder gives students agency in managing their own online profiles, in partnership with their teachers and other school administrators who validate and credit their work. Among the range of features for schools are:
“The Mastery Transcript is giving our students the opportunity to tell their story and highlight their unique passions, experiences, and perspectives,” said Jill Gurtner, principal of Clark Street Community School, who tested the transcript during 2019-2020 with many of the school’s teachers and students. “We are so excited to have a tool that truly does justice to the powerful learning experiences our students participate in each day at Clark Street Community School. Great schools help students become more uniquely themselves and to deeply understand their own genius. The Mastery Transcript allows students to truly share their story in a way that matters to them.”
Admissions officers need to develop an initial understanding of each student quickly, but also need the capability to dive deeper into the student’s range of work. Especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with education and assessment models shifting, schools and admissions offices are seeking a better way to understand student learning and growth, schools and admissions offices are seeking a better way to understand student learning and growth.
MTC member schools interested in testing or using the new enterprise edition of the Mastery Transcript version 1.0 and setting up school accounts should reach out to Patricia Russell through email or direct message in the community site; also log into the community site for information on an upcoming webinar and related resources.