New policy to take effect in fall 2005
The Board of Education (BOE) decided on May 11 to move forward with implementation of MCPS' new grading and reporting policy for grades one through eight but to delay implementation for high schools.
The policy, which was originally slated to begin in fall 2004 for all grades, will now take effect for high schools beginning fall 2005. MCPS, in collaboration with the county's 25 high-school principals, will develop the plan for the policy's implementation in high schools.
New report cards corresponding to the policy and its new learning skills will take effect in fall 2008 for high schools.
The move to delay implementation follows a recommendation made by MCPS Superintendent of Schools Jerry Weast, who received a letter of position from MCPS' high-school principals that contained their suggestions about implementation, regulation and interpretation of the policy.
On April 30, Blair teachers were introduced to provisions that will disallow awarding group grades, penalizing students for late work and giving zeroes for work that is never submitted.
Prohibition of group grades has met with disapproval. "On the one hand, the County says, 'Group work is good,' and in the video, they tell us to only grade individually," said Magnet teacher John Templin. The training meeting, which focused on "the meaning of a grade," highlighted that grades can only be based on "individual student achievement."
Training materials also noted that, as the current policy dictates, extra-credit assignments are not allowed because they can sometimes be used subjectively to help certain students. This practice of aiding students based on past record or attitude is one of the key targets of the new policy. "This is an arrow in the heart of social promotion," Weast said to the BOE.
Additionally, participation and behavior as learning skills will have a separate section on new high-school report cards.
These policies, among others, have drawn widespread criticism from teachers who express their desire to remain less policed by County regulations that they believe hold little relevance in the classroom. "When you have a population of 100,000 or more students varying in age and ability in a county as diverse as Montgomery County, you have to look at policy as a way to establish standards instead of telling teachers exactly how to grade," said Social Studies teacher Patricia Anderson.
Despite what Social Studies teacher Marc Grossman called "positive ideas" for creating standards to keep students and teachers accountable, teachers are concerned that the standards may discourage student effort and are unrealistic. Some teachers reported hearing derisive laughter at various points during the training meeting.
Questions regarding several aspects of how the policy's goals will be achieved remain unanswered, including how teachers are meant to cope with the increased workload of grading students on learning skills and homework. "We have to grade [each student] on these different things, and we have to substantiate it," Grossman said.
Samir Paul. <b>Samir Paul</b>, a Magnet senior, spent the better part of his junior year at Blair brooding over everyone's favorite high-school publication and wooing Room 165's menopausal printer. He prides himself in being <i>THE</i> largest member of Blair Cross Country and looks forward to one more … More »