Public Input Sought on Grading Policy and Options

September 8, 2015

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is considering changes to its assessment strategy that will help maximize instructional time, increase accountability, and provide schools with timely information that can be used to improve teaching and learning and offer timely support to students.

The changes include the phasing out of two-hour semester final exams in high school courses, which would be replaced with assessments that would be given each marking period during regular class periods. These marking period assessments could take different forms—such as a unit test or a project—but would be centrally developed and consistent throughout the district.

As part of this effort, the Montgomery County Board of Education and MCPS are seeking public input on two important items:

  • Proposed revisions to the Board policy on grading and reporting; and
  • Different options for calculating final grades should high school semester exams be eliminated and replaced with marking period assessments.

The public can learn more about the policy and the options—and how to offer input—on the MCPS website.


MCPS began considering changes to its assessment strategy in response to parent and community interest in reducing the amount of testing and maximizing instructional time. The Board has endorsed Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers’ plan to eliminate two-hour semester final exams in middle school courses beginning this school year (2015-2016).

The Board also has endorsed Mr. Bowers’ plan to phase out two-hour semester final exams in high school courses next school year (2016-2017) and replace them with centrally developed marking period assessments. Under the plan endorsed by the Board, two-hour final exams will not be given in the second semester of this school year in high school courses for which there is already an external state assessment, including Algebra 1, English 10, Government, and Biology.

In July, the Board’s Policy Management Committee reviewed Policy IKA—Grading and Reporting and approved it to be presented to the Board in September. Over the summer, MCPS began the process of developing a new assessment strategy that seeks to—

  • Align local assessments to new standards and state/national measures;
  • Gather formative assessment data to inform instruction, allowing for students to receive timely supports and interventions;
  • Provide students with more frequent and varied measures to demonstrate learning; and
  • Use ongoing assessment data to facilitate accountability and central office monitoring and support.

Policy IKA—Grading and Reporting

On Tuesday, September 8, the Montgomery County Board of Education tentatively approved changes to Policy IKA—Grading and Reporting. This policy guides the process for evaluating and reporting student progress, so that it is understandable to students and parents, and is relevant for instructional purposes.

The main change in the policy is adjusting language to replace references to final exams with references to marking period assessments. Under the revisions proposed, the results of marking period assessments would still be a meaningful portion of the final marking period grade. Currently, semester exams count 25 percent of a student’s final grade.

In addition to the online comment form available on the MCPS website, comments on the policy can be submitted by email to or by mail to the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, 850 Hungerford Drive, Room 122, Rockville, Maryland 20850. All responses on the policy will be shared with the Board of Education and the Superintendent of Schools.

Grading Options

If changes to the policy are approved and two-hour semester final exams are replaced by marking period assessments, MCPS will need to develop a new way to calculate final grades for high school courses in which two-hour semester exams are given.

In order to develop possible grading options, MCPS reached out to more than 20 school districts, including 13 from the state of Maryland, to gain an understanding of existing trends and best practices. Based on this research and discussions with educators, Board of Education members, and other stakeholders, MCPS developed four main options for calculating semester grades if the assessment changes move forward.

Overview of Grading Options

Assessment Strategy Website

<<Back to browse