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In An Age of Innovation The Grade 'Em & Rank 'em Model Must Go!

In An Age of Innovation The Grade 'Em & Rank 'em Model Must Go!

"Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked"   John Dewey, 1916 
 
102 years later Dewey's "revolution" may finally be brewing! A group of independent school leaders have formed the Mastery Transcript Consortium. These leaders are positioned to trigger the first systemic disruption in the history of the education industry by ending the archaic grade 'em and rank 'em model of assessing students. The MTC model of assessment is organized around mastery standards, not grades. The following admonition on MTC's website indicates that they not only understand the problem. They're committed to following through with meaningful change.  
 
"We hear it all the time, particularly from students themselves. School hurts. Too many students leave high school uninspired, under-prepared, and anxious about the world that awaits them. Why? Our schools are tasked primarily with sorting and ranking them, rather than engaging and enlightening them. A complex human being is reduced to simple numbers and letters. We can do better."

During the Industrial Age product cycles were much longer. Problem solving was a more straightforward process because most problems had answers. Student success - good grades based on "What you know" - was considered the key to success in the real world. It was enough to be learned.

In today's rapid-change economy the only constant is exponential change. Product cycles have shortened dramatically. Many problems do not have clear solutions. And knowledge deficiencies, "What you know," can be remedied quickly online! The key to success has become"What you can do with what you know." Young people must become a learners.

Hopefully MTC advocates can influence leaders at the college level to take action. College used to serve as a bridge from adolescence to young adulthood. Now real world success is being sacrificed at the altar of school success. Reducing human beings to "simple numbers and letters" with grades has taken precedence over personal growth. To the chagrin of many professors, colleges and universities are being run like corporations. The credential is still important of course, but the superficial nature of the process (test-taking does not lead to deep learning) leaves students unprepared for the challenges  of a 21st century economy.
 
I have been energized by my work with young people at colleges and universities across the country. Often when challenged to tackle seemingly intractable problems their eyes light up! They feel pressure to compare favorably, but have never been empowered to compete.  
 
If education leaders at all levels can follow MTC's lead by moving away from their transactional evaluation model and create an environment that is transformative our young people will be prepared for a real world that is perpetually transforming! 

Next time: We are inundated with leadership books and blogs. Why then do we have fewer leaders than ever before?