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A Plan to Kill High School Transcripts … and Transform College Admissions

ZinheadZinhead Registered User Posts: 2,610 Senior Member
From Inside Higher Ed:

What if traditional high school transcripts -- lists of courses taken, grades earned and so forth -- didn't exist? That's the ambition of a new education reform movement, which wants to rebuild how high schools record the abilities of students -- and in turn to change the way colleges evaluate applicants. Sounds like quite a task. But the idea is from a group with considerable clout and money: more than 100 private schools around the country, including such elite institutions as the Dalton School and the Spence School in New York City, plus such big guns as the Cranbrook Schools in Michigan, the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts and Miss Porter's School in Connecticut.

The organizers of the effort believe all kinds of high schools and colleges are ready for change, but they argue that it will take the establishment to lead this particular revolution. Organizers believe that if more than 100 such elite private schools embrace a new transcript, they will attract supporters in higher ed who will embrace the approach for fear of losing top applicants (both in terms of their academics and ability to pay). And then the plan could spread -- over perhaps a decade -- to public high schools as well. Along the way, the group hopes to use the ideas of competency-based education -- in which demonstration of mastery matters and seat time does not -- to change the way high schoolers are taught.

Replies to: A Plan to Kill High School Transcripts … and Transform College Admissions

  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,959 Senior Member
    I don't see it in the foreseeable future. Every college admission officer I hear speak says that the foundation of the college application is the HS transcript (including course rigor and GPA) .
  • droppeditdroppedit Registered User Posts: 752 Member
    There's no way this would work at my D18's public HS. It's too subjective. There are 700+ kids in each grade and teachers wouldn't be able to do such a detailed evaluation of each one (at least honestly, many would probably just check the highest level of "mastery" on their favorites and lower on others).

    If I were to remake the current HS system I'd switch to a uniform 0-100 scale for grades nationwide accompanied by a difficulty level for the class. It would be followed up by standardized tests that draw from thousands of problems of varying difficulty (to prevent "teaching to the test" and other gaming issues) and where each student's test is different (to prevent cheating at test time).

    The one big problem is the issue of "mastery" vs. relative performance. Are colleges interested in what students "know" or how they did relative to their peers (i.e. vs. other students in their school)?

    Note that I'm not a big fan of the multiple-choice tests as currently given. With a small number of choices you can game the system (it's a test of elimination).
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,565 Senior Member
    edited June 2017
    We all forget the original purpose of grades. They have become an end, not a means. Grades were a way to evaluate competency in the first place. I really don't think a college admits someone because they have a 97 average and their classmate's is 93. The competition with GPA and scores becomes just plain silly. Admissions should be other stuff anyway, and is already at elite colleges.

    I think it's a great idea to just get rid of grades entirely. Do they continue as a system of evaluation solely for college admissions at this point? One could argue that kids and families need grades (and college admission) to maintain motivation, but that is false motivation in the first place- external, not internal. Are schools so terrible that the only way to get kids to work is to use grades?

    Well, back to reality: the truth is that our entire educational system, especially publics, is one gigantic incentive system, based on grades, and the whole system would collapse without them.

    That doesn't mean that in an ideal world, things wouldn't be better without them. While we're at it, let's get rid of our TV's too.
  • Studious99Studious99 Registered User Posts: 810 Member
    @DeepBlue86 Nice article. Thanks for sharing. I'm not sure I agreed with all of it (the BLM kid legitimately seemed impressive to me) but it was very thought provoking.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 12,285 Senior Member
    edited June 2017
    Funny part is several college classmates* I've had advocated similar reforms for high schools. No surprise considering they'd have likely benefited far better in that environment and considering the incessant complaints our undergrad Profs were "too rigid" with deadlines and expectations.

    The very complaints which puzzled me as compared to my public magnet high school, the academic expectations were on the manageable...sometimes even easy side and it seemed the Profs were willing to provide extensions to anyone requesting them.

    Even in cases where it was very obvious/apparent the requester "needed" the deadline because s/he(IME...almost always a male student) goofed off/left the assignment on the backburner until right before the deadline.

    Another case which showed how much more flexible my undergrad Profs were vs my public magnet teachers was one prof who accepted a seminar paper from an older classmate just a FEW HOURS before final grades for the semester were due to the registrar and gave him a passable grade so he could walk and graduate a few weeks later.

    My public magnet HS teachers would have told any student who pulled something like that "Congratulations, welcome to super-senior year at our HS." And then proceed to tell our GC/college office to notify colleges to rescind their admissions.

    * All respectable/elite private day/boarding school graduates.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,565 Senior Member
    droppedit, the problem with external motivators is that the motivation collapses when the external motivator is removed. An example is prizes for reading: after a few years of that, I have heard kids say they won't read a certain book because there is no prize. On a larger scale, I have read that some students who finally get in to Harvard et al, become depressed because their motivation is then gone (until they fix on the next competitive goal).

    Alfie Kohn's books are interesting on this subject. Rewards are every bit as destructive in the long run as punishments, and grading systems offer both.

    Human nature is what it is, and schools need to run efficiently, so I don't think public schools will be able to make these kinds of idealistic changes. But that doesn't mean I think the changes aren't a great idea. It would also be a great idea to have fewer than 24 in a 3rd grade class but local budgets cannot fund that either.
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