“The entrenched culture of letter grades makes many stakeholders pessimistic about efforts to transform conventional grade reporting. If we concede defeat, however, we miss a critical opportunity to eliminate practices that do not achieve the fundamental purpose of any assessment model — to give students the feedback they need in order to become better learners and better citizens.” — Mike Kalin


Just about every day, articles come across our Twitter feed that deepen our thinking about our work. The MTC seeks to drive some of the conversation around mastery-based assessment and apprentice-based teaching, but we’re also eager to learn from others. We see our organization as serving in partnership with others who seek to re-imagine school for the betterment of students

We clearly are not alone. Along with the scholarship emerging from universities and think-tanks, the mainstream press has written many provocative and accessible pieces. Here are five in our first installment of “The MTC List” that we think are worth your beach time this summer:

  • Why Colleges Need to Embrace the Apprenticeship
    • You’ll need a subscription to read this piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Scott Carlson. It’s a longer but worthwhile read that explores the value and the occasional resistance to apprenticeships in higher education. Key quote: “The success of apprenticeship programs in the United States hinges on their connections to higher education. The college degree is still the most accepted credential — the gateway to viable careers — and apprenticeships have to work with that system.”
  • Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills
    • Another article that requires a subscription, this piece in The Wall Street Journal focuses on the troubling results of the College Learning Assessment Plus exam that students take as freshmen and seniors at many colleges around the country. Key quote from the WSJ’s Douglas Belkin: “Some academic experts, education researchers and employers say the Journal’s findings are a sign of the failure of America’s higher-education system to arm graduates with analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in a fast-changing, increasingly global job market….A survey by PayScale Inc., an online pay and benefits researcher, showed 50% of employers complain that college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace. Their No. 1 complaint? Poor critical-reasoning skills.”
  • Letter Grades Deserve an F.
    • This piece of commentary from WBUR’s Mike Kalin challenges many of the typical defenses of the current system. Key quote: The entrenched culture of letter grades makes many stakeholders pessimistic about efforts to transform conventional grade reporting. If we concede defeat, however, we miss a critical opportunity to eliminate practices that do not achieve the fundamental purpose of any assessment model — to give students the feedback they need in order to become better learners and better citizens.”
  • The New Way Colleges Review Applications

    • Things are changing in the college world in ways that could make the Mastery Transcript a more functional option than some might predict. Now some leading schools evaluate digital applications in teams of two in order to provide a more contextualized and richer understanding of applicants. Key quote from Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed piece: In committee-based admissions, the first review is done in teams of two, [Yvonne Romero DaSilva, vice dean and director of admissions at Penn] explained. In a private room with computer screens, all of the materials are displayed. One admissions officer focuses on academic materials (transcripts, test scores, etc.) while the other focuses on non-academic factors. The two discuss the candidate as they do their reviews and are able to make a recommendation typically within 4-10 minutes.”
  • Why Valedictorians Rarely Become Rich and Famous — and the Average Millionaire’s College GPA is 2.9
    • This short article in Entrepreneurship by Shana Lebowitz reviews some key findings from Barking up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker’s new book. Key quote from Barker: “In school, rules are very clear. In life, rules are not so clear. So a certain amount of not playing by the rules is advantageous once you get out of a closed system like education.”

This list is just a start of course. If you have other articles that you think should be on our radar, email dubow@mastery.org.  Here’s to a restful summer. Happy reading from the MTC.

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About Terry Dubow

Terry Dubow is the MTC's Director of Communications while also working in a variety of academic and administrative roles at Hawken School in Gates Mills, OH. He has previously served as the Associate Head of School at Westtown School and the Director of Strategic Projects at Hathaway Brown. He's been an English teacher for nearly 25 years and is excited to help tell the story of the MTC.