Nothing is quite as disheartening as when you open up your assignment book only to find that you have two essays due by the end of the week as well as a test and three quizzes the next day. Something’s got to give here. Do you start writing? Do you choose to study? What do you study for?
A list of priorities is made, sacrificing time devoted to studying for small quizzes to an assignment of larger importance. You check on the myMCPS helper app and see that if you get a 50 percent on the quizzes, you will still have a B in the classes. So you rely on the 50 percent rule to keep your grades intact, and then say that’s the last time it will happen. Unfortunately, with the heavy workload that students find themselves floundering in, this is hardly ever an isolated incident.
The 50 percent rule is an educational participation trophy. Defining the rule: “Teachers assign a grade no lower than 50 percent to a task or assessment. A teacher may assign a zero if the teacher determines that the student did not attempt to meet the basic requirements of the task/assessment or if the student engaged in academic dishonesty,” according to montgomeryschoolsmd.org.
Upon entering college, this school’s alumni adjust to the lack of safety net that the 50 percent rule provided in high school. This results in shock when they receive their first grade that’s below a 50 percent. “It hasn’t affected me but I know people who are struggling without it,” 2018 alum Jordyn Taylor, a freshman at University of Maryland, said. “My friend from Churchill failed something under 50 percent.”
The rule conditions students to do the bare minimum, creating bad habits that are increasingly difficult to shake as they move through high school. “I don’t think the 50 percent rule helps prepare students for college, which is something Wootton claims to do well. I’m not saying they don’t, but allowing students to rely on this rule is also allowing them to not try as hard on certain exams and testing. In high school, we’re spoiled about that and we should earn the grade we work for because that’s how it is in college,” 2018 alum Katie Schreck, a freshman at Temple University, said. “I haven’t been affected by [not having] it in college yet, but I don’t think it’s helpful in preparing students for college exams.”
This safety net allows room for failure and ultimately worsens grades because students lazily rely on it. As work-ethic deteriorates, grades in school and in college are placed in jeopardy. It’s another way for our grades to be inflated and feel better about ourselves. Essentially, it coddles us the same way an overprotective parent or guardian would. The 2006 MCPS evaluation brief acknowledged, “Several respondents also felt that the 50 percent rule could be detrimental to student motivation and provide an inaccurate picture of students’ academic needs.”
– Chloe Perel
Have you ever had a busy week, with so many tests, quizzes and projects to focus on that you accidently let just one class slip up? Well if you have, the 50 percent rule is there to soften the blow of that mistake just a little bit. If a student shows at least some effort on an assignment or test, regardless of the score, the teacher must grant them at least 50 percent or half credit in the gradebook because even if they did worse, it is not fair and could plummet students’ grades.
Being a high school student is difficult. Balancing school, joining after school clubs, participating in sports, taking SATs and ACTs as well as getting a good night’s sleep can be tough. On top of that having any time for out-of-school events, volunteer programs, religious organizations and leisurely activities and an occasional Netflix binge leaves students with packed schedules. Managing all of that on top of completing all homework and studying for every test and quiz seems impossible.
The 50 percent rule provides a layer of cushioning for that ‘uh oh’ moment in class when you realize that between completing and studying for all of your other classes, you may have forgotten to study for your chemistry quiz second period. This little extra booster can be a major grade saver for situations like these. Junior Bailey Goldstein said, “Once I forgot to study for a math quiz but I didn’t have to worry too much because my grade wouldn’t have been lowered by too many points because of the rule.”
The 50 percent rule could potentially put teachers at a disadvantage but, it could also be a stress reliever for them. Teachers (for the most part) understand that as busy students, we cannot devote all of our time into one single class, and understand that we may not have all the time in the world to study for their test. It can take some of the guilt off and keep students and parents off their backs as to why they failed a test. It can also show the students that as teachers, they can tell when we are working hard and do not deserve to totally fail an assignment.
If a student has a slip up or is simply too busy a certain week to go seek help, the 50 percent rule allows them some room for error, without totally suffering. It often keeps students from giving up if they do not understand a concept. If grades dramatically dropped at the failing of one or two assignments, it can be discouraging to students, resulting in them caring less about their grade, or even dropping the class because they might feel inadequate. Junior Yuvi Singh said, “It has happened to me a few times and it’s relieving knowing my grade isn’t going to suffer because I got busy.”
– Emily Eichberg