MCPS Adjusts Grading as Many Students Struggle

by Emily Siansky ‘22

Starting on November 30, MCPS adjusted the grading policy after finding students, especially those who are from a disadvantaged community, have higher failing rates than normal. These adjustments include alterations to the Progress Checks, a reduction to the number of graded assignments in both the Assessments and the Practice/Preparation categories, extending due dates to accommodate late work, and using zeros as a last resort. 

The Warrior conducted a survey of more than 400 students at Sherwood. Sixty-five percent said that the hardest part of online school was keeping up with school work, with 38 percent saying that they believe they are getting more work than in person learning. More than one-third of the respondents stated that they do not like online school. 

I hate online school. I have more work for all of my classes online and I have less time to do the work,” said senior Sean Paton. 

Principal Tim Britton acknowledges that it is difficult to reach all students during virtual learning to help them succeed academically, and he believes that MCPS’ decision to extend the time for students to make up assignments is a good and necessary change. Britton said an ongoing challenge for teachers is that they have to cover so much material while only seeing students twice per week in classes. 

“When students are meeting in a class on average for two days a week for 60 minutes and one day for a 20 minute check-in, that does not come close to the amount of class time a student would get if they were in the building 5 days a week for 45 minutes a class. However, the teachers have been asked to cover the curriculum virtually the same with only minor adjustments,” explained Britton. “Therefore, it would almost seem like the workload is more but for the most part, our teachers have already adjusted the workload to be less. Although it does not seem that way since students are completing assignments outside of the class time.”

The tension between workload and getting through the curriculum appears to be most pronounced in math. The Warrior survey found that 48 percent of students believe that math is the most difficult subject during virtual learning, followed by 18 percent that say English is the hardest. 

The adjusted policy change states that teachers should aim to have 9-12 Assessment grades per quarter and to limit homework to one assignment/activity per week. 

It will be difficult to reduce the number of assignments in mathematics.  We are teaching a curriculum that is normally taught in 5, 45-minute classes.  Now we are reduced to 2, 60-minute virtual classes,” commented Jordan Bennett, the head of Sherwood’s Mathematics Department. “Reducing the number of assignments does not reduce the amount of content that a student is learning.”

Bennett also noted that math is a very difficult subject that requires a lot of undivided attention. Having distractions at home makes it harder for students to be focused at all times.