Author: Jonathan Martin

Reinventing Crediting and Transcripts (Part 2): Considerations for Making Change

January 2, 2020 by

Reinventing Crediting Book CoverAs described in my previous post, there are tremendous advantages that can come with a new form of scholastic crediting and a new model of school transcripts. Instead of itemizing courses completed and recording what is, in effect, seat-time accrued, we can document what students actually know—and what they can do with what they know. Students, their parents, and their future schools and employers can gain much greater understanding of the student’s genuine abilities and have greater confidence in their prospects. Students can be credited for the myriad ways they develop competencies, whether in a conventional course, an online learning environment, an internship, a co-curricular experience, an individualized passion pursuit, or an elaborate interdisciplinary project. They are no longer restricted to being credited only for a traditional sequence of classes.

The advantages of such a transformation of school crediting are clear. Indeed, as I discuss in my book, Reinventing Crediting for Competency-Based Education, they’ve been clear for decades. A US Bureau of Education (before there was a Department of Education) report published in 1954 is remarkably prescient and entirely current in the many critiques it makes of the Carnegie credit system used widely in high schools both then and now. These complaints include that it “encourages a rigid schedule of classes and subjects,” “gives undue emphasis to time served,” and doesn’t recognize “work experience or civic competence.”

But how? How do schools pursue such a large change, upending generations of expectations of what a high school transcript should look like, and shifting such a powerful paradigm? Reinventing Crediting provides case studies documenting how schools and systems have managed or are undertaking this transcript transition, either to completion, as in the case of New Zealand schools (though completion may be the wrong word, as the work is never truly done), or in the early phases, as in the case of Mastery Transcript Consortium schools such as the Nueva School (CA) or the Putney School (VT). Reinventing Crediting also provides a road map for schools and districts to transform their transcripts that draws upon the lessons learned from the case studies.

Some main points from my two chapters on the change process that are important for schools and districts seeking to transform their transcripts are: (more…)

Reinventing Crediting and Transcripts (Part 1) – Learning from Experience

December 30, 2019 by

Reinventing Crediting Book CoverI had the good fortune to be present in April 2016 when educational leader Scott Looney articulated his vision for a new high school crediting paradigm and launched the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) in a meeting room at Cleveland’s Botanical Gardens. This new transcript model provided a key component of transforming student learning toward greater relevance and engagement, better differentiation, deeper learning, and ultimately stronger preparation for success in college and careers.

The MTC model for crediting and recording student learning presents a much-needed alternative to the standard United States version of a secondary school education. The transcript has no courses listed or credited, and no grades or Carnegie units. Instead, it shows competencies developed and demonstrated. This approach enables far more flexibility in designing, delivering, and acquiring a high-quality high school education.

Others have also written about the Mastery Transcript Consortium on the CompetencyWorks blog. Tony Wagner wrote here in June that it will “change the game by creating an entirely new way to report the quality of student work and their readiness for postsecondary learning—one that is based on real evidence of mastery, rather than a grade or time spent in a particular class.” Chris Sturgis wrote last year that “the MTC wants to create a system of credits and transcripts that represents the whole child, or whole teenager in the case of high schools.”

As an early participant in the development of the MTC, having prepared its first set of sample rubrics and competencies, I’m delighted to have now authored the first book on the MTC and its new transcript model. Reinventing Crediting for Competency-Based Education: The Mastery Transcript Consortium Model and Beyond lays out the why, what, and how for this alternate transcript model.

As regular CompetencyWorks readers know, many schools nationally have been re-structuring high school education around competencies, and course credit is dependent upon competencies demonstrated. However, many of these schools have not changed the format of the transcript itself very much. The transcript may provide additional information in the form of core competencies identified and recognized in student learning, but it doesn’t transform what we credit and record regarding student learning. To quote New Hampshire educator and author Brian Stack in a piece published at CompetencyWorks, “most competency-based high school transcripts still contain the same base reporting measures, which include course names, final course grades, credit earned, grade point average, and class rank.” The MTC goes a step further, allowing for high school education to no longer be constrained by the conventions of the traditional course names and sequences and empowering students and educators to chart more personally pertinent pathways to acquiring a high school diploma.

Like nearly every innovation, the MTC transcript model has many important antecedents and analogues. My book focuses on three examples of excellent competency-based crediting systems in higher education and abroad that competency-based educators can learn much from. Western Governors University, which Heather Staker wrote about on this site in 2012, dispels with conventional courses. Students choose a major, which is composed of domains, competencies, and objectives. They progress by accumulating competencies via both a multiple choice test and a performance task until they have mastered a domain. Similarly, New Zealand’s universal system of high school crediting, the National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA), discards classes and coursework on its transcript altogether, itemizing instead only the standards students have mastered. Students, with the advice of their teachers/counselors, can select from a wide array of nationally determined standards and organize them into unique, personally pertinent pathways. Chris Sturgis has also written at length about New Zealand’s NCEA here at CompetencyWorks.

Even less familiar to K-12 educators is the outstanding model used by the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Medical College (LMC). MTC founder Scott Looney had the benefit of geographic proximity and personal connections to LMC when formulating his vision, and he has brought secondary educators from across the United States to study the successful LMC crediting and transcript model. (more…)

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