2017 Collaborative Innovation Grant

Awarded to The Mastery Transcript Consortium

In April, 2017, The Edward E. Ford Foundation awarded a $2 million Collaborative Innovation Grant, the largest single grant in its 60-year history, to The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC), a collective of high schools organized around the development and dissemination of an alternative model of assessment, crediting and transcript generation.

A group of more than 100 independent schools from around the world have joined forces to try to begin to change high school by inventing a new kind of transcript. Soon this group plans to add partners from public, charter and parochial schools to this effort.

The MTC hopes to change the relationship between preparation for college and college admissions for the betterment of students. It will focus on mastery standards and credits rather than letter grades and Carnegie units. This Mastery Transcript will be electronic and provide not only a one-page overview of a student’s achievement, but, with a mouse click, will reveal the underlying institutional standards that credit represents. And with one more mouse click, it will reveal the actual student work product and teacher feedback that earned the Mastery Credit. This new transcript presents a transparent, detailed and authentic picture of the whole student as it can provide documentation of the knowledge and skills learned outside, as well as within, the classroom.

The enormous power that the transcript wields over each student’s experience and each school’s approach to teaching also provides an enormous opportunity to make things better for everyone. The new Mastery Transcript isn’t built yet, but what follows is a vision of its projected features:

  • It will be a digital transcript readable in under two minutes. Every Mastery Transcript from every school will share a common design so that, once trained, college admissions officers will be able to navigate it easily.
  • Evidence of a student’s best work in high school will be two clicks away for any reader of the transcript. In essence, the Mastery Transcript will function as a homepage that will link to the actual evidence of student mastery the school certifies.
  • Rather than listing courses and grades, the Mastery Transcript will illustrate a student’s mastery of skills, knowledge, and elements of her or his demonstrated character traits.
  • Each school will develop its own Mastery Credits. This means each school’s teachers and administrators will determine what skills, knowledge, and character traits they want to credit based on the school’s mission, values, and vision.
  • As a result, the Mastery Transcript will offer much greater transparency and clarity than the current transcript that nearly all schools use. Colleges will know the shape of each student, and students can use their classes, extracurriculars, and even their summer work to stretch, strengthen, and know themselves.
  • Despite what some critics suggest, school using the Mastery Transcript will likely become more rigorous, not less. After all, there are no B-s on a Mastery Transcript.

The Mastery Transcript isn’t just about helping with the college process. It’s about clearing ground for schools to teach in ways that match our era and better align with what we’ve learned about how students learn best.

Mastery Transcript aims to foster an apprentice-based pedagogy that inspires intrinsic motivation, nurtures curiosity, demands deep understanding, and leads students to truly master what they have learned for the assessment. In other words, MTC is not just building a transcript; they’re creating a path to a better school experience for students.

Check out John Gulla's and Scott Looney's article Transforming High School by Changing the Transcript to learn more about this exciting and ambitious project.