Chelai Johnson is a Prince George’s County parent. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.
by Chelai Johnson
I applaud Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) for being proactive and convening a project team to assess current grading procedures and policies. A lot of thought and research was put forth by the team. However, there are two recommendations that concern me.
Recommendation #4: Teachers must give grades of no less than 50% on all assignments for good faith effort.
To get credit for putting forth effort is a good thought when kids have struggled. But, as a parent, I would like to think that my children put forth effort in all work, as that’s the expectation my husband and I set in our home. On the other hand, as a parent, I will never know my children’s true level of mastering a subject area if I don’t have access to their true grade. How can they put forth more effort if we don’t know the true effort that was made in the first place?
This leads me to Recommendation #1: Teachers will assign a quarter grade of no less than 50% for quarters one, two and three.
If a student’s grades are not reflective of 50%, why act as if they earned higher averages? Student grades should reflect what they earn. The key word is earned. If I were to decide to obtain a tutor to assist my children or tap into other avenues of assistance, it’s difficult to mark progression with a minimum of 50% implemented. Moving from a 20% to 50% shows a level of early mastery. But the way PGCPS presents the grade, you won’t see progression at the lower levels of mastery, from quarter to quarter. Even though 20% is low, 20 to 50 is a large jump that should not be discounted.
Although there are two recommendations that I oppose, there are two that I support strongly:
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.
This recommendation provides students with a space to master their subjects. If they can’t master foundational concepts, it’s hard to move on and grasp future concepts. I remember when I was in high school, my mother went to a Back-to-School-Night, The day before, I had gotten back a test on which no one in my class received a grade above a low C. My mother asked the teacher what she was working on the next day, and her answer was the next subject matter. My mother asked how that was possible, when clearly, a majority of the students had not mastered the current subject matter. Other parents jumped in the conversation, and the next day we reviewed the tested subject again and had another exam a few days later. The second time around, each student’s grade was raised one to two letter grades, a large increase over the previous grades.
Recommendation #5: Schools shall organize one parent conference per semester to discuss students’ grades.
I remember as a kid, each quarter after grades were released there was a parent teacher conference. When I read this recommendation, my first thought was, “What happened that we don’t do this anymore?” I’d love the opportunity to have this as a standard, and hopefully it will encourage more parent involvement.
As I mentioned previously, I think PGCPS has been proactive in making recommendations and has some good suggestions. I hope the school board is thoughtful and open to many of them and mindful of those that cause flags for parents, teachers and students.
“Is it becoming too hard to fail? Schools are shifting toward no-zero grading policies,” Washington Post.
“New grading system possibly coming to PGCPS,” The Sentinel Newspapers.
“Proposed Changes to Grading and Reporting Policy,” Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.
“Teacher Raises Questions About Grading and Reporting Changes,” Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.