The Board of Education (BOE) has tentatively approved changing its grading policy to increase the weight of semester exams and eliminate the loss-of-credit (LC) policy next year.
The proposed changes to MCPS' grading policy would raise the weight of semester exams from 25 to 30 percent of a student's semester grade. If the changes are implemented, students who receive an "A" for both marking periods and a "C" on the exam will receive a "B" for the semester instead of an "A," which they would receive under the current policy.
According to Principal Phillip Gainous, the BOE wants to increase the weight of the final exam because students who receive the same grade for each of the marking periods study little for the final exam. "The kids made the 25 percent meaningless by blowing off the exams," explained Gainous.
According to an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students on Feb 3, 82 percent oppose increasing the weight of the semester exam.
Many teachers, including horticulture teacher Leslie Backus, believe that the exams are not completely aligned with the curriculum and therefore would unfairly harm students' transcripts. "In the case of county exams, kids might be penalized for something that's not their fault," explained Backus.
Physics teacher James Schafer thinks raising the weight of the final exam would make sure students fully understand the topic. "You shouldn't be able to get a double grade, perform two letter grades lower and still maintain the original grade," said Schafer. "It shows that you haven't developed a mastery of the subject."
Another policy change, according to Office of Curriculum and Instruction Program (OCIP) worker Lori-Christina Webb, is eliminating the LC policy.
If the policy is approved by the BOE, the state will continue to record attendance, but students will no longer lose credit from unexcused absences.
Gainous said that the OCIP decided to eliminate the LC policy because some schools did not want to use instructional time to record attendance.
Schafer believes that if students are able to keep their grades high, attendance should not matter. "If you can skip every class and get an ‘A' on my exams, I think you earned an ‘A' because you've been learning the material somewhere along the way," said Schafer.
But other educators, including Gainous, said the BOE is sending the wrong message to students. "They want you to go to class, but there's not accountability," Gainous said.
Webb said good attendance helps students do well in class. "There is definitely a correlation between attendance and achievement; if you go to school, you get better grades," Webb said.
In an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students taken on Feb 3, 86 percent of Blazers support eliminating of the LC policy.
The current plan, according to a policy outline, is to implement the changes at the start of the next school year in middle and high schools. Changes for elementary schools will be implemented later.
A policy outline also has proposed changes in the areas of formal interims, grading scales, teacher consultation, credit for high school courses taken in middle school and quality points for honors and AP classes.
Community meetings to discuss the policy changes will be held on Feb 12 and 13 at Gaithersburg and Blair high schools, respectively. The BOE will make its final decision Mar 24.
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