Grading System Still a Problem

Current MCPS grading policies are designed to help students pass classes. This also means that students can do so without learning much, so they end up failing the semester exam, which in turn has a huge impact on their final grade.
In recent years, there has been a much larger percentage of students failing exams than courses, especially in math, which indicates that the curriculum and exam material don’t match up. This could also prove that grading policies are too lenient and allow students to pass easily. While MCPS has shifted its focus away from this issue, it is still a huge problem among many students and demands attention.
Freshman Abby Zinn, who passed her honors geometry class but failed the semester exam, thinks that some students understand the material but don’t do well on large semester exams. Zinn thinks that she did not completely understand all of the curriculum at the end of the semester.
“It’s kind of a faulty grading system. Some people perform better on a day to day basis than on a standardized test,” Zinn said.
Some grading policies used in MCPS, such as the reassessment policy or the 50 percent rule, ensure that students are able to bring up failing grades. The reassessment policy allows students to go in for reteaching and then retake the assessment they failed, at the discretion of their teacher. The 50 percent rule states that if a student completes an assignment, he or she cannot get below a 50 percent on it.
Since these policies in the grading system made it easy for Zinn to pass the class, she was not concerned until it was time to study for the exam and she realized that she did not completely understand the curriculum. This is a common problem among the student body, as it is challenging to remember and understand everything that was taught during the whole semester for the final exam.
“It is essentially very easy to pass any class you want, just do a little bit of the work and you don’t have to learn a single thing to pass the course,” science teacher Jeff Grandin said. He believes that this large number of students failing final exams can be attributed to a very lenient grading system, which allows students to pass the class without fully retaining the material.
While this may be part of the problem, there are also issues with the material on exams as well. According to the MCPS website, in June 2013, 68 percent of high school students failed their Algebra 1 exams while 80 percent passed the class. This demonstrates how it was much easier for students to pass the class than the exam because the material on the exam did not match up with the class.
Though exams are a very important aspect of a final grade, MCPS is more concerned with students’ performances in class than on exams. “Failure rates have moved up and down over the years and we are more focused on course completion and improving student learning and performance in each classroom for all students,” MCPS Senior Communications Specialist Gboyinde Onijala said in an email.
Passing classes but failing final exams is an ongoing problem among the students at RHS and something must be done to solve it. Whether it be modifying exams or doing more frequent, smaller exams, there are many actions that can and must be taken to drastically decrease the large number of students failing final exams.