Board of Education working toward consistent and descriptive final grades
The Board of Education is considering revising its grading and reporting policy to create more consistency of grades throughout the county and to align the policy with state and national assessments.
These revisions, which will go into effect in the 2003-04 school year, include changes in the policy of sending interims, losing credit due to attendance and grading consistently throughout grade levels, as well as policy changes concerning middle school grades appearing on transcripts and the weight of the final exam. The policy revisions will be put before the Board of Education for a decision on March 24. Community opinions concerning the policy were voiced at a feedback session held at Blair on February 13.
The revisions to the current IKA Grading and Reporting policy that are being debated fall under nine categories. The most controversial of these policy revisions is a recommended shift from a 25% final exam weight to a 30% final exam weight. According to Montgomery County Public Schools pamphlet, "Policy IKA Grading and Reporting Frequently Asked Questions," there are three reasons for this decision: to encourage students to understand the significance of exams, to prepare students for the rigorous state and national assessment tests (such as the SAT and AP tests), and to give due weight to tests that evaluate "cumulative assessment of learning." The result of this change would be that students would have to earn a higher grade on their exam to receive a high grade on their final transcript.
25% AAC=A ABE=B ACD=B AEE=C BBD=B BDE=C CCE=C DEA=D
30% AAC=B ABE=C ACD=C AEE=D BBD=C BDE=D CCE=D DEA=C
For both 25% and 30%: EEE=E EED=E EEC=D EEB=D EEA=D
Also, particularly relevant to high schoolers applying to college is that high school classes taken in middle school will appear on final transcripts. According to program supervisor for English and Language Arts at the secondary level in Montgomery County, Betsy Brown, who spoke at the feedback session, MCPS policy has always stated that these middle school classes must appear on the transcript, but a "computer glitch" has allowed the practice of students choosing to have their final grades from middle school removed in order to raise their cumulative GPA. When a student commented that these middle school grades have the effect of lowering the cumulative GPA by several tenths of a point, Brown replied that colleges look at many different factors besides GPA and that the difference between a 4.7 and a 4.9 should not make a big difference.
A third revision concerns formal interims and informal feedback to parents and students. Under the current policy, formal interims are mailed to students in danger of failing or dropping more than one letter grade in regular classes, and are mailed to students earning a C or lower in honors classes. A recommended change to this policy is for formal interims to be sent to students who might drop more than one letter grade whether they be in honors or regular classes. Teachers would also have to inform students and parents in advance of how they will be graded and evaluated during the class. The Board of Education hopes that this action will give students a better idea of teacher's expectations, and give both students and parents better feedback about the quality of the student's work and grade.
The fourth category of policy revisions is attendance. Currently high school students lose credit after five unexcused absences. The recommended revisions would state the importance of attendance and would record and report whether a student was at school, but have no direct effect on students' grades. Make-up work would also be allowed for only excused absences. This revision would make issues of attendance separate from issues of grading and reporting; the effect of the revision making regulation of attendance a separate policy to be dealt with at another date.
Revisions of grading symbols will make the value of the A-E grading scale more defined. A=90-100%, B=80-89%, C=70-79%, D=60-69%, E<60. According to Brown, these numbers are based on rounded decimals (89.5% is an A, 89.4 is a B). However, Brown said freedom for teachers is still available. If a good student has an 89%, it is still up to the teacher's professional judgment whether that student deserves an A or a B. According to the Board of Education, the new scale makes evaluation of students more fair.
The new revisions will also grant a quality point for a C grade in an honors course. A quality point is an extra point added to the numerical GPA points of an A, B, or C in an honors or Advanced Placement course that is used to calculate weighted GPA. Formerly, these quality points were given for a grade of A or B in an honors class and for an A, B, or C in an AP class. Granting a quality point for C grades in honors courses is part of the Board of Education's objective, according to its Frequently Asked Question pamphlet, to make the grading policy more consistent and to "remove an indirect penalty for students taking honors courses."
In the separate category of teacher consultation, specialists such as speech/language pathologists or research program teachers who work with students with disabilities will be invited to attend parent conferences about assigning grades. The only change in this policy is that it will now be required that general education teachers consult with special education staff when assigning grades to a student with an IEP.
Complete details about revisions to the Policy IKA Grading and Reporting can be found at the Board of Education website. According to the Frequently Asked Questions pamphlet, the revised policy is based on four broad goals: "Grades should be consistent across classrooms, levels, courses and schools. Grading practices should provide useful information to teachers on instructional decisions and include frequent and meaningful feedback to parents and students. Grades should be descriptive rather than punitive. Grades should align with the curriculum."
The proposed revisions being made to the policy are not yet final. Several feedback sessions have already been held in different parts of the county and a final feedback session will be held on February 20 at Wootton High School. According to Dr. Barbara Haughey, the principal of Ashburton Elementary School and speaker at the Blair feedback session, the Board of Education will finalize what the county wants the policy concerning grading and reporting to be using feedback from the community and decisions from the superintendent Jerry D. Weast's work group. The board's policy will then be used by Weast to make county regulations enforcing the policy.
Haughey emphasizes the importance of community involvement in deciding the form this grading policy will take. With the repercussions of this decision effecting over 138,000 students in the county, "it's important for people's input to be heard."
Opinions about the revisions can be sent via email to the Board of Education at
Annie Peirce. Annie Peirce is a senior in the Communications Arts Program and the public relations manager for Silver Chips. She is also an opinions editor for Silver Chips Online. She was born on October 25, 1984, in a hospital somewhere in Prince George's County; but doesn't … More »