by Genevieve Demos Kelley
A cross-functional team of advisors has made recommendations for significant changes in the way students in Prince George’s County are graded. The 28-member project team, which included parents, teachers, principals, administrators, community organizations, and union representatives, began studying PGCPS’s grading and reporting administrative procedures in February of 2015.
In a presentation made to the Board during a June 9th work session, project team member and high school Principal Gorman Brown outlined thirteen recommendations for revising the grading procedures:
- Recommendation #1: Teachers will assign a quarter grade of no less than 50% for quarters one, two and three.
- Recommendation #2: Behavior cannot be used as a grading factor.
- Recommendation #3: Attendance and tardiness cannot be used as grading factor. Teachers shall allow makeup work, regardless of the reason for the student’s absence. (Make-up work must be returned within 10 days, and student grades may be reduced by 5% each day.)
- Recommendation #4: Teachers must give grades of no less than 50% on all assignments for good faith effort.
- Recommendation #5: Schools shall organize one parent conference per semester to discuss students’ grades.
- Recommendation #6: At the beginning of a grade or course of study, teachers shall provide to students and make available to parents a written course outline, syllabus or overview of grade/ course expectations.
- Recommendation #7: Students shall have one additional opportunity to improve their score on a qualifying assessment/project which demonstrates knowledge of course content, skills and standards.
- Recommendation #8: Principals (or their designees) are responsible to oversee the entry of the one numerical grade per week in SchoolMax.
- Recommendation #9: Teachers and schools shall maintain records of student progress. It is expected that teachers shall enter graded student work into their electronic grade book and return that work to students within ten school days of it being submitted to the teacher.
- Recommendation #10: All assignments, including makeup work, shall have a due date. Assignments submitted after the due date shall be penalized on a sliding scale basis. Reduction in value of 5% per day down to a minimum of 50%. All work must be submitted prior to the last day of the 2nd to last week of the grading cycle.
- Recommendation 11: If a teacher believes a student has made significant improvement during any grading period, but whose numeric average is not passing, the student’s record shall be thoroughly evaluated to determine the grade given. Information regarding the outcome of the evaluation shall be forwarded to the Principal when an override occurs.
- Recommendation 12: Teachers shall use an electronic gradebook and classroom-to-home communication systems selected, deployed and supported by IT. Implementation delayed until SY ‘18 due to fiscal implications.
- Recommendation 13: Principals (or their designees) are responsible for ensuring that grading and reporting policies are applied consistently within their school.
Not everyone is happy about the recommended changes. Theresa Dudley, president of the Prince George’s County Educators’ Association, expressed concern about several of the recommended changes, including the prohibition against using attendance and behavior as grading factors and the requirement that assessments receive a grade of at least 50%. You may view her comments beginning at 7:01 in the video of the work session.
Beginning at 36:12 of the work session, Gorman Brown presented the recommended changes to the Board. He outlined both the rationale and the dissenting viewpoint for several of the recommendations.
For example, in a survey conducted earlier this year, more than 60% of secondary teachers and a majority of central office teachers and instructional support staff in high schools disagreed with the recommendation that would require minimum quarter grades of 50% for the first three quarters. But Mr. Brown cited research suggesting that this policy change would help students who are not successful early in the school year to stay engaged later in the year. Mr. Brown also acknowledged significant opposition to recommendations three and four.
Board members had a wide range of questions and comments about the recommended changes. The question and answer portion of the session begins at 55:12 in the video and lasts until about 1:45:15, ending with Board Chair Segun Eubanks’s glowing praise of the recommended changes, which he believes will be “a game changer.” He gave these words of caution, however: “I know as a policy person, I’ve seen a whole lot of good ideas go horribly wrong when you don’t continue with collaboration and hard work . . . We could still screw this up really bad, right?”
The remainder of the work session was devoted to the budget reconciliation process, in advance of the June 14th Board meeting.
Board Work Session Grading and Reporting Cabinet PowerPoint Presentation
“New Grading Policy Possibly Coming to PGCPS,” the Sentinel Newspapers
“New Fairfax Co. Schools’ Grading System Focuses on Failing Students,” WTOP