MCPS refigures grading system, scraps exams


Steven Roth, News Editor

Interim MCPS Superintendent Larry Bowers announced in May that MCPS would be ending the administration of two-hour semester exams, which have been replaced by quarterly tests for the 2016-17 school year.

Quarterly tests will now account for 10 percent of the quarter grades and semester grades will be calculated by averaging the two quarter grades and in some classes, formative and summative grades will be combined. Though these changes are not expected to alter or affect the way teachers teach because the curriculum and the content required of classes will not change.

“Only the grading system is changing and semester exams are being replaced by quarterly tests,” Principal Jennifer Baker said. “Quarterly tests are just drawing off what the teachers are teaching during the quarter, the curriculum is still the same.”

The grading system was changed due to MCPS facing scrutiny over high failure rates on some of the semester exams, especially in math courses. MCPS board members believed that this disturbingly high failure rate was the result of students showing little interest in exams because they were, in certain cases, already guaranteed a passing grade based on their quarterly grades. In an effort to reverse the high failure rate and produce a higher success rate, MCPS decided to completely remove midterm and final exams in the hopes of generating better exam results.

“The current model we were using, which was a downward trend system where it would average down, was not really working for our students and our community,” MCPS spokesperson Derek Turner said.

The new grading system has generated various reactions, including expressions of concern from some teachers who appear troubled by the fact that students will no longer be required to engage in the preparation necessary to take comprehensive, content-based midterm and final exams that many students are required to take in college.

“It is a disservice that MCPS eliminated semester exams for students because when these students attend college, many of them will need to take semester exams,” science teacher Jeremy Grimes said. “I believe that the state has too much testing and they wanted to get rid of some of this testing, but instead they got rid of exams and not the state testing, which I do not think was the correct decision to make.”   

Some students, however, believe otherwise, and view this new grading system as a huge win for students because it is now easier to get better grades, which will enable students to significantly boost their GPAs.

“Now if I receive a bad grade, such as a C or D for a quarter, I can just get an A or B the following quarter and receive a final grade of a B,” junior Mark Kimball said.

Though it may be easier to receive a higher grade with the new grading system, many students agree with Grimes that eliminating semester exams is a mistake, as they will be required to take semester exams in college and may not be prepared to take them.

“Even if it is easier to get a higher grade with this new system, I still believe that eliminating mid-term and final exams was not a wise decision, as the majority of students will be taking those types of exams in college,” Kimball said. “The amount of preparation required for exam-taking has been dramatically reduced, and once we go off to college, we may not be prepared to take midterms and finals because we did not take them in high school. I strongly feel that MCPS made a serious mistake and should revert back to semester exams.”
Whether the MCPS board failed to adequately take into account that students may not be as prepared for college as they would be under the old system of exams remains to be seen. Students and teachers will need to wait to determine the impact of this new grading system and whether it will have a more positive impact on learning and test results or whether it will have a more negative impact than the previous grading system. In the meantime, the WJ community has no choice but to adjust to this new system and hope that it benefits students academically both now and in the long term.