MCPS introduces new grading policy

MCPS+updates+grading+policy+in+hopes+to+help+teachers+and+students+during+the+pandemic.+

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MCPS updates grading policy in hopes to help teachers and students during the pandemic.

Due to the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montgomery County Public Schools Board implemented a new grading policy on November 30, then amended it again in December.  

“We are all living through an incredibly challenging time with unprecedented disruption to our lives across the board,” MYP Coordinator Richard Courtot said.  

The main idea of the new policy is to make school easier and more effective for both teachers and students.  Teachers are being encouraged to help the students by supporting them, giving more feedback on their work, and communicating guidelines on assignments to make them as clear as possible.

“One thing that would help me as a teacher is for students to engage more with me,” science teacher Megan Wahl said.  “Be active in the chat, respond to my comments on assignments when I give feedback, stop in for drop in hours, [and] respond to my emails.”

Teachers will be implementing these policies in their classes throughout the second quarter.  One big change of the policy is that Progress Checks in English, ESOL, and Math courses changed to diagnostic, then were removed altogether. 

Additionally, the new policy states that before a zero can be given for an assignment, the teacher must offer their full support, the deadline must have passed, the student must have shown no effort, and the student’ parents must have been contacted.  Unless all of these steps have been followed, the teachers are required to assign a minimum of 50 percent on the assignment.

“While this seems really nice because [students] are given more opportunities to get [their] work done, I feel like it will let students procrastinate even more,” senior Lauren Monnig said. “We will become so used to having a safety net and in the real world there will be no safety nets.”

Teachers will be implementing more performance-based tasks for students, because studies show that they are more effective in helping students learn the material, and understanding concepts.  Examples include presentations, written essays and reports, performances, demonstrations, simulation projects, exhibits and more.  The Board believes that assignments like these are more effective than assignments such as multiple choice tests.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” junior Mauro Gonzalez said.  “Setting up a curriculum and grading policy that is equitable for students, respects teachers’ working hours, and still encourages rigorous study is difficult enough already, during a pandemic and with online school it’s herculean. I believe these changes will be beneficial to students as a whole.”

Teachers are also being encouraged to work with other teachers to review and assess student progress.  This includes making the majority of assignments common tasks, which are done by all students in the same course.  This is to give teachers a smaller assignment creation workload.  

The policy also reduced the minimum amount of graded assignments in a quarter to nine assignments, or an average of one assignment per week, which should take students no more than 30 minutes each day to complete.  Teachers are also being encouraged to allow students to redo and revise assignments.

“Students have reported that there isn’t enough time to complete the same number assignments with less class time each week so this is an answer to that concern,”  acting Assistant Principal Kerrin Torres-Meriweather said.

Not all teachers are satisfied with the changes MCPS is making.  “I feel that the policy will have a negative impact on the students’ learning process,” science teacher Dr. Munna Chakrabarti said.  “If we continue to follow this grading policy, it will only demotivate students who are willing to learn.” 

However, many teachers agree that this is the best decision to move forward with.  “Personally I feel like this policy is the right move for right now,” English teacher Sonya Shpilyuk said. “It has negatives and positives, but we are going through a crazy time and this policy is making it easier to survive for everyone.”

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