Teachers weigh in on grade AB-BA effect

Marisa Silverman
back page editor

It’s a familiar scenario: a student gets an ‘A’ first quarter, then a ‘B’ second quarter and therefore an ‘A’ overall. After final exams met their controversial demise beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, MCPS revised its grading policy so that now semester grades are decided in favor of the higher grade. According to the MCPS website, “This new grading calculation aligns with standards-based approaches to assessment and college expectations and provides a grading structure that is fair, consistent, and understandable for students and parents.”

Teachers don’t necessarily agree. With the help of apps like myMCPS+ and the 50 percent rule, students can figure out the precise scores they need to get the semester grade they want. “I’ve personally heard students trying to figure out the system so they can get the least amount of work done and still get the grade they want,” Humanities and Arts coordinator Michelle Hanson said.

Others share her opinion. “We’re encouraging students not to try; it’s annoying,” math teacher Eva O’Keefe said.

The grading system is already starkly different from both other counties and colleges since MCPS doesn’t have final exams and there’s the 50 percent rule to protect students from receiving extremely low grades. “I think it’s actually a disservice to our students and not truly preparing them for how grades are calculated in college,” Spanish teacher Sonia Olchyk said.

Teachers aren’t just complaining without thinking of solutions. Social Studies teacher Amy Pollin suggests either going with an upward trend, so AB quarter grades would be a ‘B’ while BA quarter grades would be an ‘A,’ or reviving end-of-year exams. “I like an upward trend or an exam that gives you that other chance to prove yourself,” she said.

O’Keefe suggests another approach. “I don’t understand why we can’t go to percents. I don’t understand why. If you get a 95 [percent] and Bobby gets an 89.5 [percent] they shouldn’t be the same grade,” she said.

Out of O’Keefe, Pollin, Olchyk and Hanson, all three said that they don’t purposefully make first and third quarter harder in order to ensure students work hard second and fourth quarter. “I don’t think I need to purposefully make one quarter harder,” Pollin said.

Quarter difficulty differences come from the curriculum, and not from teachers attempting to hold students’ attention. “First and third quarter tend to be easier in language because there’s a ton of review,” Olchyk said.

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