Corruption in MCPS’s grading policy erases disparity

Nyomi Fox

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The application process is a game. Supplements are tedious. No essay can truly reflect hardship nor portray our personality or passion. What you’ve just internalized is a brief example of seniors’ complaints as they endure the pre-entry requirements for college. Although students burdened by Common App and Coalition expectations have every right to protest the heavy weight, there’s a corrupting process that must be addressed. Amidst these valid yet less substantial complaints, one is missing: The grading policy is serving to our detriment.

The luck and external factors that influence the college application process are undeniable, but there’s one thing that holds true—grades do matter.

Why am I making a concerted effort to broadcast commonplace knowledge? It is because we, the members of the beloved Montgomery County, are at a stark disadvantage. The grading policy that we hold so dear to our beating heart is jeopardizing our potential success in the realm of college applications. It would appear that boosting what should be dull B’s to effervescent A’s would place us at the tippity-top of considered applications, but this belief is obliviousness masked by optimism.

GPA disparity evaporates under the rays of grade inflation. With the 50 percent rule and completion grades serving as a safety net to students, earning a higher grade is easier than ever. After a quarter of aided efforts, students are free to relax, given the opportunity to earn a letter grade less than their previous quarter without any visible impact on their semester grade. The students who challenge themselves, refuse to relax, continue to work with the same ethic as they did before, are given no reward. Nada. Nihil. Nothing.

The intentional lack of pluses, minuses and percentages on students’ transcripts fails to inform the admission officers of this corruption that occurred throughout the semester. Montgomery County, as a result, still stands as an apple to the country’s eye, consistently producing cumulative 4.0s and weighted GPAs soaring tenths higher. The Board of Education basks in their success, while they disregard that students are worse off because of it.

In Howard County, semester grades are numerical averages, derived from each marking period as well as their final exams. In South Newport High School, grades are tagged by pluses and minuses, specifying the aptitude of students’ achievements. In Montgomery County, there is no specification, no distinguishing, no competition. We are competing with identical grades.

If it has not already been assumed of me, I am not a student who neglects personal expectations and enjoys leisurely second and fourth marking periods. My GPA is therefore respectable, but does this reflect diligent effort or strategic manipulation of the grading policy? To colleges, the answer is unknown, and will remain unknown until some method of distinguishing is implemented into grading policy.

Montgomery County may wince at the idea of incorporating a feature that distinguishes between the aptitude of letter grades or ridding the system of inflation techniques. But doing so would instill work ethic in negligent students and reward conscientious students who deserve collegiate recognition.

I recognize it may seem unrealistic, as grading policies are often determined by individual counties, but there should also be standardization. If a universal grading policy came into fruition, comparing students from separate high schools would be a breeze for admission officers.