Saturday, April 21, 2018

Creating a high school transcript

It was not so warm and sunny today, so you get a real blog post.

I discovered when someone asked me about making transcripts, that I have never written about how I go about creating one. Since this is a topic that I feel as though I repeat myself over, it is perhaps a good topic for the blog.

First off, transcripts can be organized in different ways and still be valid and communicate the information they are intended to convey. Many high school transcripts are organized chronologically by school year. I don't actually like this method, though, because it is very difficult to fit a non-traditional school experience into a very traditional box. I find it much more useful to organize high school transcripts by subject instead.

Under the headings of various subjects (i.e. Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Art and Music, etc.), I will list the coursework that my student has completed. For a non-traditional student, this format is simpler to use because it requires less explanation. Because we do not follow a traditional high school format, my high schooler's learning does not fit into neat boxes. They may take more than one year to complete a class, or they may double up and do two classes concurrently. (One of my children did Algebra 2 and Geometry in the same year.) Sometimes, on their own, they will have done enough study to equal a class worth of credit over the course of four years. How does one even begin to figure out where to put something like that in a chronological transcript? It doesn't really matter how or when a subject was learned, just that it was learned.

Secondly, I tend to make transcripts a little backwards. Instead of starting with what classes my students will take, I wait to see what they have done before putting a class down on the transcript. This is why I have my high schoolers keep fairly detailed records during their high school careers. I give them a large binder, and they keep track of things they've studied, read, watched, done, listened to, participated in, etc. We then go back and look to see what classes we can make with all that experience. Now, of course, for some classes... algebra, biology... those required types that colleges like to see, and for which we usually use a text book, we already know they have completed those. If a text book was completed, then they get the credit. But not every class that goes down on a transcript was text book based. I have written about non-traditional high school classes, which you will find by clicking the link.

The other thing that everyone always wants to know about is grades. I make no secret of the fact that we don't grade or do testing. (And the world keeps spinning and children get into and succeed in college. Really.) We base grades on a combination of mastery and effort. Because we will keep working on a class (usually) until there has been some level of mastery, it is not surprising that there are a lot of A's on my children's transcripts. The few B's and very occasional C's come when a class is generally required for consideration by colleges, so must be done, but is less than enthusiastically received by the students. For the most part though, a class that we decided would earn the grade of C or lower wouldn't even count towards the transcript. I also tend to ask my children what grade they would give themselves and take that into consideration when completing the transcript. They have tended to be much harder graders than I am.

There is also a rather unique problem that I've encountered as I've gone through my children's high school record books to figure out what classes they have done. Sometimes I have to decide to leave some credits off the transcript because they have enough, and to add everything would begin to look a wee bit suspicious. This is a side effect of letting children explore their interests... they do. You can squeeze a lot of learning into four years when you have a lot of free time. It's been interesting to see my children pass through various phases of interests. But since it would be one of those things which would be difficult to explain on a transcript, we choose to take our children's learning and make it look as traditional as we can.

So there you go. Transcripts in a very brief nutshell. What questions do you have that I missed?

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