An explainer: Proficiency education could aid in college admission


Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of TRSU Curriculum Coordinator Michael Eppolito’s series explaining a seismic shift in public education, classroom work and grading that will be implemented throughout Vermont schools for those graduating in June 2020. You can read Part 1, explaining Proficiency Based Education here.

By Michael Eppolito
©2016 Telegraph Publishing LLC

One of the first questions parents and school board members ask when we present Proficiency Based Education to them is how will this impact my child getting into college?

The clear answer is that students graduating from proficiency based schools will have no problem getting into colleges they are qualified for. Actually, students coming from proficiency based programs might have an advantage.

College admissions officers look at a number of documents that make up a student’s application package: the application; essays; test scores; school profile; transcript; teacher evaluations; reference letters; and sometimes resumes and work samples. They make holistic decisions based on the totality of the application.

For example St. Michael’s College in Colchester looks at 5 criteria: academic performance; the high school’s academic profile; the applicant’s essays; extracurriculars/personal qualities and enrollment goals.

Out of the list of application documents, transcripts and school profiles will see the biggest changes under a Proficiency Based System.

Admissions officers read and make decisions on many applications and they have a wealth of experience with a variety of school profiles and transcripts. They look at applications from international students, private, public and home-school students.

Erika Blauth and Sarah Hadjia in their discussions with admissions officers from selected New England colleges and universities found that “for proficiency-based high schools, admissions leaders emphasize that the transcript and school profile should explain what learning standards mean within the context of the particular high school. While the transcript provides information about an individual student’s achievements, the school profile provides contextual information about the curriculum, grading procedures, standardized testing history and record of college attendance…”

The guidance directors at both Black River and Green Mountain union high schools have already begun looking at each school’s profile and are considering revisions they need to make to be ready for the class of 2020.

Admissions officers have noted two components of Proficiency Based Transcripts they particularly like: the separate reporting of “work habits” and the inclusion of “transferable skills” as a discrete reporting category on par with the traditional classes like algebra or U.S. history. Both work habits and transferable skills give admissions officers another data point on a student’s personal qualities.

At  Two Rivers Supervisory Union, we are committed to continuously improving our school’s academic profile by making our classes more rigorous and by being more transparent and clear in reporting student outcomes. Young adults graduating from our high schools and looking at continuing their education will still have to put together compelling applications. If we both do our parts, our students will have many more opportunities in a Proficiency Based System.

Works Cited

  • “Collegiate Support.” Great Schools Partnership. Internet. 21 July 2016.
  • “How Selective Colleges and Universities Evaluate Proficiency-Based High School Transcripts: Insights for Students and Schools.” New England Board of Higher Education. Internet. 21 July 2016.
  • “Leadership in Action What Is a Proficiency-Based Diploma?” New England Secondary Schools Consortium. Internet. 21 July 2016.
  • “Advising Your Students: Transitioning to College from Standards-Based Learning.” Presentation. Saint Michael’s College. n.d.
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Filed Under: CommentaryEducation NewsOp-ed

About the Author: Michael Eppolito is the Curriculum Coordinator for Two Rivers Supervisory Union, which serves Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Mount Holly and Plymouth. He taught middle school at Flood Brook Union School in Londonderry for 10 years. Before that he was a special educator in Londonderry and in Silver Spring, Md. Eppolito earned his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Maryland, College Park and his M.A. in Special Education from George Washington University. He lives in Londonderry with his wife and son and their dog.

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