Redesigning a better student transcript
To help our eighth graders prepare for their high school admissions interviews, I invite them to a “mock interview” with the head of school each fall. In addition to getting to know the students better, my goal is to help the students practice their interviewing skills, and improve their ability to present their own authentic individualities in ways that illustrate all the richness and diversity of their talents, experiences, skills, potential, and achievements.
One thing that stood out to me during the mock interviews this month was the depth of intellectual thought, perspective, and character so evident in our eighth graders. Here’s is just a few of the comments the students shared with me:
- “I love writing, and I have been working on writing a work of fiction for some time.”
- “I have participated in many specialized programs for advanced mathematics. I like tackling tough challenges and stepping outside my comfort zone. Recently, I’ve enjoyed delving into the concept of countable infinity.”
- “I am fascinated by science equations, and especially the experiments we’ve been doing to demonstrate the equations for efficiency and energy in physics.”
- “I am a train enthusiast, and that goes deeper than you might think. I’ve become an international expert on trains. My photographs have won awards, been purchased by Amtrak and many others, and this has turned into a growing business for me. I have written quite a bit about trains in Wikipedia, and I have a YouTube channel with 30,000 views.”
- “I’ve found a real sense of purpose working on a produce farm that has a mission of supporting the local community.”
- “Over the last year or two, the teachers have helped me become more comfortable self-advocating for myself, including situations that involve interrupting bias.”
- “I’ve become interested in what enables teams to be more effective, in sports and at school. I hope to have more experiences to develop my skills in team collaboration.”
- “I’ve found that some of my classmates have started turning to me for help when they are not getting along or when something goes wrong. People don’t always want advice; they want someone who will listen. I am discovering that this is a talent I have, and I hope to develop my skills to listen and be empathetic, and perhaps to become a psychologist some day.”
- “I love the arts and drama and I am currently writing a monologue show.”
- “I am curious about how everything works. I love math problems and Latin. I became intrigued in 2nd grade by a digital graphic of the school’s logo created by an eighth grader. I was convinced I could improve on that drawing, and so I worked on that for the last seven years. I’ve now use eight different formulas to draw one leaf to create a much more detailed image.”
- “I’ve taught myself coding, and now I am working to design video games that will allow people to more fully explore all of the infinite possibilities in the world.”
- “I intend to work hard to succeed in life with the purpose of giving back to my parents and everyone who has given me so much. I have found that real satisfaction in life comes from making someone else happy.”
- “I was much quieter when I was younger. I have gradually been developing more self-confidence in expressing myself mostly through theater. In my first audition a few years ago, I didn’t get the part. I stuck with it and then got several small roles, and eventually worked up to having lead roles in major productions at school.”
- “As a dual citizen, I love to travel to another culture that I also call my home. I love travel and languages and math, and one day I might be interested in joining one of our country’s intelligence agencies.”
Hearing all of this reminded me that school transcripts that are used in the application process to high school (and college too) are incredibly one-dimensional and fail to grasp any of the nuance and richness of each student’s interests, talents, and potential. There’s a growing movement in our country to redesign the process and product of the middle school and high school transcript, and one of the leaders in this effort nationally and globally is a group called the Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC).
The schools that are part of this innovative and transformative movement are convinced that the industrial model of assessing students is completely inadequate in describing our students and graduates. These schools are at work developing a better, more robust, multi-dimensional, interactive, online transcript model for middle school and high school students.
Traditional transcripts are based on the coverage of content in fixed time frames where students are working for grades as their primary goal. This approach to schooling is superficial and is leading to mental health challenges among young people today.
Mastery transcripts are rooted in the joyful work of inquiry, discovery, experimentation, and learning. In this approach, the entire focus is on learning. Students move forward at their own pace, focusing on deep and continuous work over longer periods, defined by the interests and motivations of the learner.
This is exactly the point of contrast identified by Maria Montessori at the turn of the 20th century. She opposed the industrial model of education as being ill-equipped to prepare students for life. There’s a natural connection between Montessori and the work of MTC, and Oak Meadow is excited to be one of the first Montessori middle schools in the country to join this prestigious group of 337 schools nationwide and around the globe. MTC is growing steadily as a movement, and there are currently 15 schools in Massachusetts that are part of MTC, including Phillips Exeter, Chapel Hill Chauncy Hall, Brimmer and May, Brooks School, Windsor School, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, and Milton Academy.
Several high school students have already begun submitting these new transcripts in the college application process. Here are a few videos if you would like to learn more:
As you watch these videos, think about how this kind of approach might come a bit closer in illustrating the depth of experiences shared by our eighth grade students at the opening of this article.