City school system wants to ditch letter grading

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CALIFORNIA — According to the director of San Domenico School Director in San Anselmo, Kate Reeser, “The [letter] grading system is pretty broken.” It seems that she is not alone in this line of thinking.

Reeser and other administrators are exploring a new school of thought where transcripts are the new model. San Domenico and more than 100 schools nation-wide are currently participating in a “mastery transcript consortium.”

This new teaching model aims to evaluate a student’s ‘mastery’ of a concept, which means that no more letter grades will be given at the end of the course.

The new model will provide a teacher’s review of each student’s performance and also give details on their “mastery” of the subject. “It’s about gaming the system. Students no longer care about learning the information, it’s about getting the A,” according to the head of the school, Cecily Stock.

The consortium plans to reach out to colleges in an effort to make sure the new method for evaluating students passes muster with admissions. The Mastery Transcript Consortium website has sample transcripts for a graduating student, descriptions of a student’s earned credits, and pie charts to illustrate skills mastered by the student. Offering details on student achievements seems to be the preferred method.

At least seven years away, the new grade-less system would look nothing like the old A-to-F system. “Instead of a B, it would look like more of a narrative,” says Reeser. Administrators say they see this as the future of education across the board.

San Domenico is one of 14 Bay Area schools participating in the consortium program. It is believed that, once fully implemented, students will be allowed to choose between traditional grades or the mastery transcript model.

Far from hindering the student growth and learning process, “if anything, it will make efforts feel more worthwhile and the assessments more authentic,” according to Stock.

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