Credit: Credit: Albemarle County Public Schools

Murray High School Becomes First Public School in Virginia Selected to Join National Consortium Working To Transform Education to a Mastery of Skills Model

Murray High School is one of the first public schools in the nation and the first in Virginia to be selected to join a national school consortium seeking to better prepare students for lifelong success. The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) is working to change the standard high school transcript to encourage students to take classes that more closely align with their interests and that develop high-value contemporary skills.

Member schools in MTC believe the existing transcript model, used by a majority of high schools since the Industrial Age, too often asks educators to sort and rank students, rather than cultivate and capture the full breadth of their capabilities. MTC’s digital transcript solution will support a competency-based education model and call upon students to demonstrate a mastery of skills, knowledge, and habits of mind. Reviewers easily will be able to read and evaluate evidence of a student’s best work, in areas such as problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis, and logic and reasoning.

“We are thrilled Murray High School has joined as our first public school member in the state of Virginia,” said Ben Rein, Senior Director of Outreach & Partnerships for MTC. “Murray has long been a leader in advancing student-centered education and will be a powerful voice in our conversation about creating a high school transcript that better reflects the unique skills, strengths and interests of each learner.”

“The timing could not be more appropriate for our students,” said Chad Ratliff, Murray’s principal. “This year, we celebrate our school’s 30-year anniversary. We were founded on the principle of mastery learning, which means that students do not receive a failing grade on a subject. Our teachers continue to work with students until the quality of their work indicates a mastery of the subject,” Ratliff explained.

Ratliff said college admission practices often drive how high schools structure curriculum and student learning experiences. Often students feel pressured to take as many advanced classes as possible, not necessarily because of their passion for the subject or because it fits their career interests, but simply to accrue the highest level of competitive academic credits.

This is the first year in Virginia that incoming high school freshman will be impacted by new diploma requirements from the state department of education as part of the state’s Profile of a Virginia Graduate. The state is requiring the development of core skill sets in the early years of high school and the establishment of multiple paths toward college and career readiness for students, which could include work-based experiences, internships, independent studies, student projects, civic engagement, and other experiences designed to demonstrate applied knowledge and learning.

“Being part of this educational reform group is a powerful opportunity for our students to advance the lifelong-learner competencies our division has established for all graduates,” Ratliff said. Such skills include thinking analytically and critically to pursue new ideas; acquiring and using precise language to communicate knowledge and processes; participating fully in civic life; freely exploring and expressing ideas and opinions; and applying habits of mind and metacognitive strategies to plan, monitor and evaluate one’s own work.

In Consortium conversations with colleges, admission directors welcomed a more well-rounded approach to assessing student abilities to contribute to their schools and succeed in their post-graduate lives. MTC also is looking to expand collaborations with professional organizations and employers who have expressed interest in a Mastery Transcript.

Ratliff referenced a report from 2016 that said one-third of all the jobs in America likely will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines within 10 years. Fulvia Montresor, who works with companies across the globe on behalf of the World Economic Forum, points out that the top 10 jobs in demand in 2010 did not exist in 2004 and that as many as 65 percent of elementary school students in the U.S. will end up at jobs that have not yet been invented.

“That’s exactly why the Consortium is so important and why we are looking forward to working with schools from around the country to bring about change. By focusing on skills instead of rote knowledge, we will be equipping students to succeed in whatever field they choose, including those opportunities that will come to exist at some point in the future,” Ratliff said.

The Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) is a growing network of public and private schools who are together creating a digital high school transcript that reflects the unique skills, strengths and interests of each learner. Over the next decade, the MTC hopes to support member schools as they change the way students prepare for college, career and life. A nonprofit, dues-based organization with more than 200 members, the MTC is led by Executive Director Stacy Caldwell and was awarded a $2 million matching grant by the Edward E. Ford Foundation in April 2017.