Revised Grading and Reporting Policy

January 22, 2003
A revised Grading and Reporting policy tentatively approved by the Board of Education on January 14 is recommending a number of changes focused toward making grades consistent across the school system and bringing them into alignment with new Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) curriculum and state assessments.

Policy IKA, Grading and Reporting, and accompanying regulations encompass a variety of areas including weight of the final exam, interims, attendance, components of a grade, and feedback to parents and students.

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 policy has not been revised since 1993. The original policy encompassed operational instructions. The revision, in contrast, separates those from policy and encompasses them in a range of regulations.

The revised policy states that grading and reporting practices must include the following issues:

§ Meaningful feedback on student achievement to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and MCPS.
§ Alignment with MCPS curriculum.
§ Consistency within/among schools.
§ Accurate reflection of student achievement compared to grade level indicators of course outcome.
§ Fair representation of a student's performance on a variety of measures over time.
§ Clear and timely communication to parents and students as to the grading criteria and the components.
§ Summative assessments, which may include final exams, end-of-unit tests, and cumulative projects, as reflections of a student's mastery of grade level or course material.
§ Opportunity for students to demonstrate mastery of grade level indicators or course objectives through a variety of methods.
§ Regular and frequent information to all students and parents about the student's progress.
§ Consistently high expectations of all students across all courses and programs.

The "operational framework" accompanying the policy recommends changes in nine areas. Following are highlights of the recommendations.

Interims: Grade updates should be provided to all students and parents. Formal interims would be sent to parents of both regular and Honors students in danger of failing or dropping more than one letter grade during the nine-week grading period.

Attendance: Attendance would be recorded and reported but would have no direct effect on student grades. However, the importance of attendance would be stressed. (Old regulations mandated loss of credit for five unexcused high school absences.) Make-up work would be allowed for excused absences only. Also recommended were placing attendance in a separate policy and revising attendance regulations.

Weight of final exam: Final exam weight would increase from 25 percent to 30 percent of the semester grade for high school computer science, English, foreign languages, mathematics, science, and social studies semester exams.

Components of a grade: In Grades 1-8, grades would be based on evidence of the attainment of the grade level or course indicators (rather than current practice based on objectives assigned to the student); this would be piloted in 2003-04. In Grades 9-12, grades would continue to be based on course objectives.

Grade symbol/grading scale: Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten would continue to have a narrative/checklist. Grades 1-5 grades would be consistent, aligned with curriculum and compare to grade level indicators: 4-advanced understanding and application; 3-complete understanding and application; 2-developing understanding and application; 1-minimal understanding and application. This would be piloted in 2003-04. (Currently, Grades 1-2 grades are reported as O, S, N and Grades 3-5 grades are reported as A-E.) Instructional level would be given as grade level in major categories. An O, S, N would be used for effort, social skills and work habits as appropriate. Grades 6-12 grades would continue to be reported on an A-E scale.

Special needs: The current practice of inviting specialists to participate in parent conferences and having specialists schedule review meetings would continue. In addition, teachers would consult with special educator and ESOL teachers when assigning grades.

Feedback to parents and students: Teachers would inform students and parents in advance of the grading system, grade level, or course indicators. Parents and students would be given ongoing feedback on the quality of the student's work and grade updates.

Credit for high school courses taken in middle school: Middle school students taking high school level courses would receive high school credit after passing the course and final exam. Credit would automatically appear on student transcripts and be included in the GPA calculation. (Currently, students have the option of whether or not to include the credit and grade on the transcript and in the GPA.)

Quality points for Honors/AP: In addition to continuing to add a quality point (weighted GPA) for A and B in Honors courses and A, B and C in AP courses, a quality point would be added for a grade of C in Honors courses.

The regulations also recommend continuing the practice of not using a plus or minus on report cards and continuing to have nine-week marking periods.

The policy and regulations are now available for public comment before the Board takes action on the final policy March 24. It is anticipated that phase-in of regulations will be piloted at the elementary level in 2003-04 and begin at the middle and high school levels in 2003-04.

Community meetings set

Three community meetings have been scheduled during the 60-day public comment period to provide a forum for discussion of proposed changes to Policy IKA, Grading and Reporting.

Staff members from the MCPS Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs and Office of Shared Accountability will provide information on proposed changes for parents, students, community members, teachers, and other school staff at the three meetings. All are scheduled from 7:30-9 p.m. Dates and locations are:

§ Thursday, January 30: Eastern Middle School Media Center
§ Wednesday, February 12: Gaithersburg High School Media Center
§ Thursday, February 13: Montgomery Blair High School Student Activity Center

For additional information on the meetings, contact Jody Silvio, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, at 301-279-3522. Those unable to attend the meetings are welcome to provide feedback to the Board of Education.

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