Pass/Incomplete Changes Traditional Reporting and Grading at Sherwood

by Shirley Zheng ‘21

On Tuesday, May 12, MCPS Board of Education released updated information regarding how the new Pass/Incomplete grading will play out for the rest of the school year– specifically how it will affect semester grades and GPAs on students’ transcripts. 

The newly revised grading policy grants students additional flexibility and an opportunity to boost their grades by allowing them to choose how final semester grades will look like on their transcript for semester two. If students pass the fourth marking period, they can either choose to receive a “Pass” as their final grade for the semester or to receive a letter grade that is one letter grade higher than their third quarter grade and it will be counted towards their cumulative GPA on their transcript. If students earned an “Incomplete” as their grade for the fourth marking period and had an A, B, C, or D as their third quarter grade, they can choose to receive a Pass or the same letter grade they earned in third quarter for semester two. 

 Sherwood staff and teachers express that they believe this was the best decision to be made given the current situation. “Our school district had to devise a grading system that would reward those students who continued to perform academically, but did not penalize those who have not been able to perform well under the current circumstances,” said Sherwood’s Resource Counselor Elizabeth Giffen.

Currently, there is no “default” system for which grading option students will automatically receive. Giffen was informed by the district that “a portal is being designed where students will be able to indicate which grade for each class (letter or Pass, or Incomplete) they choose.”  

The question comes down to how will teachers determine whether or not their students have passed the fourth marking period. MCPS has released specific criterias to assist teachers determine what is expected of students in order to receive a pass for the fourth marking period. Teachers will evaluate students based on their assignment completion, content and skill, engagement, and professional judgements. Students are only expected to meet two of the four expectations in order to pass their classes for the fourth quarter. According to the Board of Education, this new system is built on top of the normal grading system; it heavily relies on teachers recording letter grades to help them determine if students have met the above criterias. 

Along with such flexibilities of the Pass/Incomplete system, concerns regarding the integrity of grades start to arise. Since the new grading and reporting system will allow students to receive a higher letter grade than what they earned in the third quarter, there is concern that this policy will put those students who stayed devoted to their learning in the third quarter and worked hard to earn an ‘A’ in an unjust position. However, some teachers believe that as there are no solutions that can fully accommodate every student fairly in this unprecedented situation, those “students who work hard and stay connected will be getting the most educational benefit from this time and it will pay off for them in the future,” said AP Modern World History teacher Matthew Schneider. 

On a positive note, the new policies seem to aid in student motivation as MCPS continues online learning. As students will need to pass fourth quarter in order to receive a higher letter grade on their transcript, teachers hope that this will encourage students and keep them focused for the remainder of the school year. 

“I think it [the new grading policy] will help motivate some students,” said Schneider. “Hopefully students will be motivated by the grade but also by a desire to not fall behind in their learning overall this semester.”