In many schools, students will be taking home a different kind of report card this year as more classrooms switch to a competency-based model of teaching and grading, reported the Concord Monitor:
Broadly, the idea behind a competency-based education is that students should get credit for what they demonstrate they know – not by the time they sit in class. To do that, subjects are broken down into learning goals – competencies – which students must master.
For example, in math class, students must demonstrate they know how to divide fractions before they move on to the next unit. They are allowed to retake tests if they don’t get fractions down the first time, and they also can’t move on until they’ve mastered fractions.
These changes mean new ways of teaching – and new report cards. Because competency-based learning demands that students master individual units of instruction, the thinking goes that you can’t give students a single grade for an entire class. Instead, report cards should reflect which individual competencies students have mastered, or not.
As Donna Palley, assistant superintendent for the Concord school district, explains it: “If you went to the doctor and the doctor said that we’re going to take your weight, your blood pressure, your temperature, and average them out together for your ‘health score’ that wouldn’t really be that useful for you.”
According to UNH’s Director of Admissions, universities and colleges are adapting to the new grading systems:
A lot of parents worry about how colleges will receive the new model, and if it could hurt their children’s chances of gaining admission. But administrators say that as competency-based grading has gained ground, colleges have adapted.
Robert McGann, the director of admissions at the University of New Hampshire, said his office routinely sees competency-based transcripts from both in- and out-of-state applicants.
“The context of it is we see transcripts from around the country and around the world. And there’s countless variations on transcripts,” he said.
Whether competency-based or otherwise, it’s important that schools provide admissions offices with the tools necessary to understand their records. And by and large, they do, McGann said. Competency-based transcripts are “not a pro or con in the admissions process,” he said.
“When I talk to my colleagues at different institutions, they uniformly tend to be very supportive of the concept behind it – the idea being that high schools are not going to be moving kids along until they’ve demonstrated a mastery of the topic at hand,” Sanborn High School Principal Brian Stack said.