Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers on Tuesday announced a new high school grading system set to start next academic year as Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) eliminates semester-ending final exams.
The new system will weigh assessments given to students in most classes as 10 percent of a student’s grade for that marking period or quarter.
The final semester grade will be calculated by averaging the two marking period grades using a point scale that assigns four points to an A, three points to a B, two points to a C, one point to a D and no points to an E.
Bowers released a grading table (shown below) that shows the final semester grades based on each possible combination of marking period grades.
In some situations, such as when a student gets an A in the first marking period of a class and a B in the second marking period, the 3.5 average will be enough for an A final semester grade. That new standard will replace the practice of teachers assigning the lower grade based on the downward trend.
“MCPS staff gathered extensive feedback from school and community stakeholders, including colleges and universities, and examined the grading practices of various school districts in deciding how grades will be calculated going forward,” Bowers wrote in a message to the community on Tuesday.
The current system takes into account the first marking period grade, the second marking period grade and the final exam grade. The final exam grade makes up 25 percent of a student’s overall semester grade.
But the Board of Education in November finalized a plan to remove all semester-ending final exams starting with the 2016-2017 school year, with members arguing the exams took up valuable classroom time and that less intense marking period assessments will allow teachers to better monitor a student’s progress.
MCPS faced scrutiny over a high failure rate on some of the semester final exams in math courses. Some board members said part of the reason for the high failure rate was that students who were already assured a passing semester grade based on their marking period grades showed little interest in the final exam.
The school system is still finalizing what the marking period assessments will look like, but they could be tests, projects “or other common tasks similar to what is already included in the curriculum,” according to a MCPS fact sheet.
Bowers said Tuesday that MCPS will put the results of the marking period assessments online so students and parents can view them during the semester. He also said that after requests from students and parents, the school system has decided students can take the marking period assessments home after the assessment is given. That wasn’t allowed with the current final exams.
Eric Guerci, the student member of the Board of Education and a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, called the new grading system “a huge win for students.”
Board member Rebecca Smondrowski said more than 100 teachers are working with the school system’s central administration on developing the new marking period assessments. The board is expected to get a report on that work in June.