Get the A at WJ!

This image shows the new grading system in MCPS schools. Some students at WJ are really focused on their grades and check them very often. Graphic by Ann Morgan Jacobi of The Black and White.

This image shows the new grading system in MCPS schools. Some students at WJ are really focused on their grades and check them very often. Graphic by Ann Morgan Jacobi of The Black and White.

First quarter has ended, and with this transition comes stress and regret about the efforts put forth in classes. Most students agree, that as a school, there’s a shared mentality when it comes to grades in classes. Nothing’s worse than that sinking feeling of learning that a person’s final grade in a class is an 89.4 and knowing there is nothing they can do about it. So in order to avoid that feeling, students have discovered ways to game the system.

Even though teachers exclaimed at the beginning of the year that they will never bump grades, there are still those select students who make the daring choice to ask for the bump. These students are the ones who end the quarter with a 89.4 and have the mindset that they can waltz into their class and ask for the 89.5 to get them to an A.

For WJ students, grades have become less about putting forth their best effort in the class and more about how they can play the system to get the grade they desire either by using the gradebook to their favor and calculating their grade before a test to see the lowest score they can get to achieve the desired overall grade or banking on the teacher to bump them up when the end of the quarter arrives.

As more and more students are exposed to apps like MCPS helper and MCPS+, it has become easier than ever to calculate their way through classes. Even before the test is placed in front of them, they already have a rough estimate in the back of their mind of what is the lowest grade they can receive on this assignment and still maintain the grade they have in the class. Or if they are looking to raise their grade, they know the exact number that will get them to their dream number.

This same mentality can relate to the mindset of knowing an assignment will have no impact on their grade, and therefore not putting forth the effort. The amount an assignment will impact their grade correlates to the amount of effort put forth by the student. If in the back of their mind, they know this one test will have no major impact on their grade, they will not put their best foot forward.

Another shortcut that’s developed in the past couple years is the idea of calculating a way through semesters. Ever since MCPS removed final exams and revised their grading policy, it has become easier than ever to secure a top grade in a class. Students have adopted the 50 percent approach when it comes to semester grades. By the 50 percent approach, they mean that in order to get an A, they only need to earn an a 50 percent of the semester. Meaning if they securing the A quarter one, possibly slacking off quarter two and gaining the momentum to secure the A quarter three. Or, if they are unlucky and don’t secure the A first quarter, they still have time to make it up second quarter.

Before, students grades rested on the shoulders of semester exams and they knew the grade on that would make or break them. Now since that added pressure is gone, they focus on securing the top grade only a portion of the time. Students are split on whether the removal or final exams was a good or bad thing, claiming that a person cannot escape exams in college. Either way, exams or no exams, students face their classes different ways.

“I am actually all for final exams, and think they are a good way of preparing students for college. Recently, I have become one of those students to calculate her grades, but I realize it does not impact how much effort I put in the class. I still work hard and make sure to do my best, regardless of my grade,” junior Emily Choi said.

The removal of exams have also lead to stricter rules on grade bumping from teachers, who have in the past been more inclined to bump a student’s grade because they knew the student had to prove themselves on the exam. Now there is no actual way for the student to prove themselves, instead they are walking away with the high grade for not only the quarter but for the semester.

“Not the biggest fan of students who ask for grade bumps. I think each one has there own sob story, and expects teachers to keep on forgiving them. So that is why I am hesitant to bump the 89.4 and 79.4,” science teacher Brock Eastman commented. “So many bank of having the 89.5 or 79.5, so they can secure their grade and slack off for the rest of the semester. They play this game the entire quarter and MCPS is encouraging grade inflations.”

School has transformed into one big game filled with calculations, the occasional begging and hoping to put forth the least amount of effort to get the biggest reward.

“I think MCPS should move to having pluses and minuses that have an impact on your GPA rather than just an A or a B. Then average the two quarters to have a better representation of their work in the class,” Eastman added.