“MTC, more than any other organization that we’ve come across, exists in the sweet spot of our two areas of policy focus,” said Sean Slone, senior policy analyst at the Council of State Government (CSG), who also staffs the CSG’s Workforce of Tomorrow Subcommittee. The subcommittee brings together a diverse cross section of the nation’s state officials to explore how states can best navigate the challenges and opportunities of the new economy.
As he opened his recent podcast with Stacy Caldwell, CEO of Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC), Slone said that his work particularly focuses on advancing two efforts, including supporting the government and its partners in fostering lifelong learning, which he says is “necessary for the workforce of tomorrow, who is facing a world of work that is dynamic and uncertain in years ahead,” and redefining metrics of success for lifelong career readiness. He says society needs to get out of the habit of having the standardized test score, letter grade, or GPA define a person’s worth and serve as a barrier of entry for higher education and career.
MTC’s growing membership currently includes high schools in 37 states. Among MTC’s membership there is a shared interest in adjusting the way school happens for students, including providing more personalized education, building on students’ strengths, and meeting students where they are. For example, the state of Utah has been pursuing innovation, both in competency- and proficiency-based education, and has been supporting schools with grants at the K12 level. Utah has also established policy work in higher education, paving the way for mastery-based models in college as well. Recently Utah named MTC as a critical organization for supporting high schools in their move to mastery learning, resulting in 23 new MTC member schools from the state. Caldwell also cited Vermont and Hampshire as among numerous other examples of states moving in this direction.MTC’s innovative solution, the MTC Mastery Transcript, is a game changer in the transition between high school and college and in the college admissions process. Caldwell noted college admissions as a significant influencer on what happens in high schools.
“[College admissions] can be an inhibitor; but it can also be an accelerator: if we can get college admissions teams focused on accepting and valuing what the Mastery Transcript and schools are delivering, we can accelerate the movement toward mastery learning. MTC also has been trying to work with the career industry and build more alignment,” she said. “Students could essentially use the Mastery Transcript as a first resume that shows their credentials, internships, and other programs they have taken on--in a way that really sets them up for their lifelong learning journey.”
How can states support more schools in getting on board? Caldwell laid out four priorities for how state governments can help pave the way for students:
1. Establish New Definitions of Success:
MTC believes that states can think about broadening the definition of student success to really include the holistic range of skills students need for success in college, career, and life.
“When you think about the work that is accomplished with mastery learning, you think of what employers say they need, including problem solving skills and people who are good team members and who can be creative and find new solutions to existing problems. Those are among the areas that are not easily found or translated in a single-subject set of success metrics.”
2. Shift Crediting:
The granting of credits must shift its focus from seat time to measurable student achievement. MTC suggests states need to “Look at the full range of what constrains how high school happens,” including graduating requirements and admissions requirements. Caldwell notes the status quo is not as supportive as it could be. “There are a lot of states with proficiency models, but state scholarships, for example, are dependent upon GPA. The full support for the move to mastery is not yet where it should be, as all systems need to line up.”3. Shift Funding Models:
School funding is also largely still based upon seat time. MTC believes states need to move toward more fully supporting the work of mastery-based schools that value student achievement and also support students doing entrepreneurial work or internships that are tied back to their studies. State funding must further support “schools that have made the space for students to learn deeply and get outside of the four walls of the classroom,” said Caldwell.
4. Align Initiatives:
The final area that MTC sees as a focus for enhanced support among states is getting K12, higher education, and workforce initiatives into alignment, so that career initiatives can be connected to and funded along with the innovative work happening in high schools. Lining those areas up is historically very difficult, but to the degree states can work to align policies across all three, there can be substantially more traction in the months and years ahead.
If your school is interested in membership, we want to hear from you! Get in touch with Ben Rein, firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on states' efforts to modernize K12 education, please visit the Aurora Institute's recent set of resources.