Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Competency-Based Transcript and College Admissions


How will colleges be able to interpret grades when the high school switches to a four point scale? My son is a sophomore and I am concerned that he will be at a disadvantage when he applies to college.  - BHS Parent

This question was recently asked of me through our website.  It's a common question and an appropriate concern for parents to have.  There is a misconception out there that colleges and universities will not know how to interpret a competency-based transcript.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

We have spent a considerable amount of time consulting with admissions officers at top tier schools around New England and they have been consistent in their responses.  Colleges and universities accept students from all over the world.  Students from public schools, private schools, charter schools, home schoolers, international students, etc...  Admissions officers see a wide variety of transcript formats.  They see transcripts with and without class rank, GPA (weighted or unweighted), traditional letter grades and a variety of standards-based formats.  They consistently report that the transcript format is a non-issue.  The important piece is the school profile.  A well written school profile describes how admissions officers will interpret the wide variety of transcripts they review. The following is a direct quote from Caroline Weaver, Admissions Officer at Harvard:

"In a nutshell, we have no preference in how schools choose to evaluate their students.  We have every single variety of evaluation possible represented in our applicant pool.  As long as your school profile is comprehensive and explains how students are evaluated, which classes they are eligible to take in what years etc... we have all the information we need.  We are far less concerned with GPA and rank than we are with rigor of the curriculum.  We simply want to see students challenging themselves and doing well in those challenging classes.  Nearly half the schools represented in our applicant pool have done away with class rank.  And with today's crazy weighting systems GPAs mean very little if we don't have the "key" (school profile)....I think you will find this sentiment repeated by many of our peer institutions." 

This is consistent with the feedback we receive from the public and private colleges and universities with which we have consulted.  Although affirmations like this from top tier schools are reassuring, it's important to note that there have been no final decisions made about what the transcript or diploma will look like at Belmont High School.

Parents and community members who have followed our transition timeline understand that we have placed a much greater emphasis on teaching and learning than we have on grading and reporting.  As a faculty, we have committed to the study and implementation of research-based practices that have been shown to have the most powerful impact on student learning.  As we develop more sophisticated and effective instruction and assessment practices a natural shift in reporting will occur.

I have included a brief and well written article on class rank by Sarah McKibben.  Although no decisions have been made about class rank and GPA, it is important that we begin to have these conversations and, as a community, come to a deeper understanding of this issue.

I hope you enjoy the article and please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Stepping Out of Rank