Mastery Transcript to Better Highlight Sequoyah Students’ Skills in College Application Process

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Last year, Sequoyah joined the Mastery Transcript Consortium, a group of schools building a new high school transcript that focuses on the skills students learn, rather than on the grades they receive in their courses. As a pilot school, Sequoyah School will start using the Mastery Transcript in the near future, though the date of implementation is yet to be determined. Because Sequoyah is already using a standards-based grading system, a transition to the Mastery Transcript should be fairly easy, compared to schools using traditional grading systems.

But why change to a Mastery Transcript? 11th grader Julian Suh-Toma noted that “wherever we are in our classes is much more complex than just saying ‘oh, I’m a B-’… We all have strengths and weaknesses in all of our classes and that can’t really be reflected in terms of cumulative GPA, like an A or a B system.” Suh-Toma understands that Mastery Transcript is beneficial for demonstrating uncommon skills that cannot be expressed as just a letter or number. 

Director of Curriculum and Student Support Emily Singer believes that, generally, the Sequoyah community tends to think of the MTC as something that is in the near future. While Sequoyah’s LO and mastery-based grading system is already different from the grading systems of many other schools, MTC would help normalize mastery-based grading. Singer expressed that “it’s not that radical a change for us,” and that “because we’re already using learning objectives, it’s just logic[al to make that transition].” Julian Petri, Humanities department chair, agrees, saying, “it’s not that different than what we’re doing. The difference is not how we grade, it’s in how students will get credit for different things.”

When looking at the disadvantages of a mastery transcript, senior James Femino, who is working with 12th grader Ozzy Simpson on an Impact Project related to the Mastery Transcript, stated that, “it takes a lot longer to build and a lot more effort to get it off the ground than a typical grading system, because it relies on the effort of the people to build credits and implement those.” Femino also sees upsides to this system: “I believe [MTC] is way better, but also is kind of jarring and scary,” with the “major concern” of the new system being “how to transition kids to the new system.”

Even though you would have to start earlier to establish your transcript, according to Femino, “admission directors get a more in-depth glimpse of how you define yourself.” This could potentially help the applicant because what they would show on a mastery transcript would stand out to a school more than a number or letter grade. In the beginning, colleges will probably have a bit of difficulty understanding the transcript, but there are certain aspects of it that will be easier, according to Susan Bell, the MTC’s Director of Member School Engagement. Specifically, Bell noted that the college application process for students will change at a currently unknown date in the future. Since “personal statements from the student are baked right into the transcript,” admissions officers will be able to more easily see what the students are like. Whether or not the student has the highest test scores, they will still be valued and judged fairly about other activities they excel at, and potentially have a better chance at going where they want to go. This ends up being a more impartial way to determine who gets admitted, because admission directors actually get to see who the students are, instead of defining them by a number.