Q&A with Mastery Transcript Consortium

We recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Tamika Guishard, Mastery Transcript Consortium’s Communications Director. She answers some commonly asked questions as well as explains how MTC works with schools and students.

How do you describe the Mastery Transcript Consortium to someone who has never heard of it?

MTC provides a way to look at the whole child. The traditional transcript most often includes narrowly defined grades, and it rarely reflects learning outside of class, meaningful student growth, or demonstrations of proficiency in essential skills and application of knowledge. We aim to capture the different facets of a student, moving away from a transcript that flattens young people and towards a representation of their holistic achievement. We are currently working with over 370 schools and counting to broaden the scope of what we exalt as “achievement.”

What makes the Mastery Transcript unique?

As you can see on this page, our transcript shows mastery credits earned and courses that have been completed but no grades. Rather, it demonstrates a student’s proficiency in a clearly defined set of skills. 

There are two types of credits: foundational and advanced. Foundational skills are required to get a diploma. Advanced credits are examples of where the student has decided to explore further or go especially deep. Each school or district determines their own “competencies/skill areas” that are in accordance with the school community’s culture and priorities. Learners upload evidence that, once approved, will be attached to their transcripts, demonstrating their learning. This agency allows students to take ownership of their learning and demonstrate it in unique ways when they apply to college, for jobs, etc.

For instance, there are different ways to prove a student can read a map. MTC member schools  are changing the conversation around what educational experiences can and should be validated and presented on the high school transcript. Also, a student can articulate and demonstrate how they’ve met it–it’s a very empowering experience for a young person.

Why do schools prefer the Mastery Transcript?

Our transcript better reflects a student’s cumulative learning compared to a traditional transcript. It doesn’t force teachers to determine whether they should give a grade based on the student’s individual growth or based on how the student compares to the rest of the class.

Traditional transcript credits reflect a learner’s end-state proficiency whereas our underlying assessment models used to award credit are aligned towards growth. Consider two learners whose proficiency is assessed at regular intervals using a system with 5 levels of proficiency.  Their assessments are as follows:

Learner One:  4 / 4 / 4 / 4 / 4 / 4  (strong proficiency, no growth)

Learner Two:  2 / 2 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 (mastery, high growth)

In a model that uses averaged scores, Learner One’s mean score of 4 suggests their achievement is higher than does Learner’s Two mean score of 3. But in a Mastery Learning model, Learner Two has demonstrated both high growth and the highest level of end-state proficiency (i.e. mastery). Viewed through this lens, Learner Two’s learning may actually be  deeper than that of Learner One.

What do students think about the Mastery Transcript?

We recently spoke with numerous students who are currently enrolled in schools that use the Mastery Transcript. Here are some of their thoughts:

“I used to be more of a traditional ‘AP’ student, and with the MT I am able to be more active in what I do and learn. I have been able to pursue things that I love to do and have that gratification.” – High School Senior

“I have had a really good experience with the MT both personally and with the response of the schools I have sent it to. Even schools that don’t normally take transcripts were happy to receive it. I really love the exploration and compiling of my own evidence. In my experience, I continue to be shocked in a good way with what the MT can contain and do. I have always used portfolio style, end of year compilation of evidence, but the MT has made this much easier to use and has also helped me find things about myself that maybe I didn’t even realize or know.” – High School Senior

Have you had any pushback from colleges about the different format of the transcript?

One of my colleagues, Edgar Montes, partners with admission officers to discuss how to read the Mastery Transcript, why it’s important, and how it shows a more complete picture of the student. Last year more than 100 colleges reviewed Mastery Transcripts, and all were able to use it. We have recently released a brief online module “How to Navigate the Mastery Transcript” for admission officers to help them build competency and confidence in reading the transcript as well.

How long does it take for a school to move to a Mastery Transcript?

The timing varies based on the school’s starting point, capacity, and bandwidth. Our Journeys to Mastery framework supports schools and gives them a base and examples to work with, but the school has to determine the foundational competencies that fit their school culture. We also provide quality control and guidance. Some member schools started using the transcript immediately upon joining while others planned a transition of five or more years.

What are you particularly excited about right now?

Right now we are deeply partnering with Utah at the state level. They have a lot of Native American reservations in the state and want to honor the valuable learning taking place there. For example, traditional transcripts are not designed to convey those community leadership skills that may have been cultivated tribally.  They have our largest density of MTC schools, with thirty-one in counting. Very exciting to say the least.

We are also working with partners to begin development of tools to help schools better capture ongoing student-centered learning even before adopting the Mastery Transcript. This project sets schools up for success with our transcript because those nuanced layers of PBL and interdisciplinary work are recorded with posterity to be translated as “achievement” using our tool. Our vision is that MTC can continue to embolden and facilitate those transitioning to Mastery Transcripts.

Teacher, filmmaker, activist, artist … describing Tamika Guishard isn’t easy, nor should it be. Each of the varied roles and many accomplishments that mark her resume combine to create the unique perspective she brings to advancing the conversation surrounding the future of education. Tamika brings experiences from such renowned organizations as National Park Service, DC Public Schools, University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Tribeca Film Institute.

Read more about her new role at MTC here