25 September 2009

One Transcript to Rule Them All

I don't mean to brag, but I might be the only one in the state who is worried about Section 9, Part 1 of Washington's ESSB 5889:
The superintendent of public instruction, in consultation with the higher education coordinating board, the state board for community and technical colleges, and the workforce training and education coordinating board, shall develop for use by all public school districts a standardized high school transcript. The superintendent shall establish clear definitions for the terms "credits" and "hours" so that school programs operating on the quarter, semester, or trimester system can be compared.
Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for some sort of transcript document that can clearly communicate to any stakeholder who may be using it; but, I'm concerned about the potential for schools and districts to get locked into a single representation of grades.

Reader hschinske commented on my previous post that "There's a big fight going on in Seattle about starting to let kids graduate with under a 2.0 (with a D average!!!!eleventy!!). All kinds of talk about standards slipping, what kind of message does this send, etc. -- when to me it's really just notation and not that big a deal. You really have no idea what goes into those grades *anyway*."

I couldn't agree more. As most transcripts stand now, every possible measurement about a kid that a teacher chooses to collect during a specific period of time gets mashed into one symbol. Such a symbol is the veritable mystery meat of the academic world. I'm guessing that colleges and employers don't ask many questions about what's in them...they just have to swallow. (Also---how many times in your life did you actually need to show your high school transcript?)

From my perspective, however, there is an increasing number of districts who are interested in both standards-based grading and reporting at the secondary level. But once the legislative requirement above is fulfilled, the die is cast. I would not argue to move everyone to standards-based reporting (at least not within the next two years)---I would just like the door to be left open. I am hopeful that in meeting the task set out by the government, the groups mentioned will focus more on the credits and hours ideas...and not so much about the symbolic representations (or, gulp, a grading scale). Maybe I won't be the only one in the state worried about the prospect of the one size fits all transcript.


Mister Teacher said...

Just loved your post title. :)

The Science Goddess said...

Thanks! Suppose I could have gone with something more "Highlander"-like (There can only be one.). Seems like this sort of story lends itself to a science-fiction title.