Grading and Reporting Letter sent to Dr. Weast and President O'Neill

 

February 14, 2005


Dear President O'Neill and Superintendent Weast:

At the end of the second marking period, we, the MCCPTA Grading and
Reporting Committee remain concerned about the ongoing inconsistencies
in implementation of the grading and reporting policy. We are aware
that the MCPS administration is working to carefully craft protocols
governing components of the policy such as reteaching/reassessing and is
seeking to build consensus among stakeholders with respect to these
important decisions. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to address
some of the most critical deficiencies immediately. Parents are
particularly concerned about protecting this year's high school
students from being disadvantaged by inequitable implementation.

Specifically, we are asking that MCPS immediately:

1. Prohibit use of the 4,3,2,1, 0 grading scales. Experience this year
has demonstrated that the 0-4 scales result in grade compression. It
would be our recommendation that all schools be required to revert to a
percentage grading scale and eliminate the 0, 1,2,3,4 scale. Until MCPS
has the time to benchmark and identify a workable and fair grading scale
we urge you to prohibit use of these scales.

However, if the 4,3,2,1,0 scale cannot be eliminated, then MCPS must
require that all teachers use equal grading intervals and not permit
smaller numeric intervals at the A and F levels. Equal grading
intervals are required by MCPS in the 50-100% scale and must be
similarly required in the 4, 3,2,1,0 scale. Students are entitled to a
SINGLE, CONSISTENT countywide cut off on these scales for grading. At
present some schools use 3.6 as a cut off for an "A" whereas
other schools use 3.4 for "A". The impact on student transcripts is
real and unfair. In addition, we ask MCPS to reiterate and allow
teachers some of the flexibility they had previously relied upon in
rounding grades for students whose academic performance would be
"compressed" or underrepresented in a strict application of the grading
scale.

2. Revert to practices which allowed teachers to "count" homework in
the grade so as to address problems of drop off in student motivation.
Though we recognize that the grading policy does indeed allow for
homework to "count" where it is assigned for mastery and is graded with
feedback, there is still widespread confusion on this issue. Many
teachers are not distinguishing between homework for mastery and
practice; they are simply not counting any homework. Parents report that
it is having a detrimental effect on learning as students do not come to
school prepared and teachers must spend time reviewing work that
students should have done at home. The result is a slow down in the
ability to get through the curriculum. We are also aware that
Seneca
Valley High School
, one of the pilot schools, is recommending that
homework be reinstituted as 10% of the grade. We urge that MCPS issue a
clear statement requiring that homework be counted in each student's grade.


3. Immediately communicate with the parent community at every local
school about the current status of implementation. Specifically, local
schools should communicate how they are implementing the policy this
year so that parents and students are aware of opportunities, if any,
for reassessment and so that they can understand the grading scales
being used in each department. The communication should identify how
the school is offering consistency at the course or department level to
avoid unfair outcomes. In addition, the communication should provide
some assurance that the implementation would not continue to fluctuate.
Once a practice is decided upon --such as reassessment practices --
students should be able to rely upon the practices articulated by their
teachers without being subjected to constant change. We are aware that
that Dr. Lacey has written to all principals requesting such a
communication but, as of the writing of this letter, not all schools
have complied with the mandate. Verification of such communication is
essential.

We appreciate the access and input that MCCPTA representatives have
been granted in working on these complex issues. Yet, we cannot ignore
the fact that there are students currently in our county schools who are
being adversely affected and that MCPS must take some steps TODAY to
correct the most egregious problems while the policy continues to
evolve. We appreciate your immediate attention to these concerns.


Sincerely,


Shirley Brandman
On behalf of the MCCPTA Grading and Reporting Committee