La Plata, MD-The Board of Education on Monday unanimously voted to standardize the scale middle and high school teachers use to determine grades. The Board agreed to draft policy requiring all middle and high school teachers to use a traditional grade scale that does not allow for minimum grades to be assigned.

The motion for the new policy designates the following grading scale: an A equals 90 to 100; a B is 80 to 89; a C is 70 to 79; a D is 60 to 69; and an F is 0 to 59. The policy, once passed, will take effect when the second semester begins on Jan. 28.

The Board’s decision came after receiving a recommendation from a grading committee, conducting a Town Hall and reviewing results of a grading survey. The grading committee recommended that a failing grade at the end of three quarters be based on a numerical value of 50 to 59 percent. If a student received an overall percentage lower than 50 percent at the end of the quarter, it would be converted to 50 percent. However, the committee suggested that a failing grade in the fourth quarter be based on a 0 to 59 percent scale.

Six people, mostly teachers, spoke Monday night at the forum. All but one person spoke against the recommendation, stating the proposal does not prepare students for the transition to college or the workforce. Linda McLaughlin, a teacher and president of the Education Association of Charles County (EACC), was a member of the grading committee and said she believes those opposing the recommendation do not fully understand it. She said the proposed grading scale provides motivation and equity for students.

Prior to the work session, the Board conducted a grading survey in which the majority of respondents indicated they favor a consistent grading policy that keeps the traditional 0-59 scale to score an F grade.

There were 1,890 people responding to the survey. Nearly half of the respondents, 47.1 percent, identified as parents. Other respondents included teachers (27.5 percent), community members (10 percent), students (8.69 percent) and staff (6.3 percent). Not all respondents answered all questions.

The survey questions centered around whether the scale for an F grade should be 0 to 59 percent or 50 to 59 percent.

Some of the survey findings are

  • A consistent grading system across middle and high school was important to 93 percent of the respondents, and 66 percent indicated the traditional scoring range of a 60-point spread, 0 to 59, is the fairest way to score an F grade.
  • Most, 70 percent, did not support changing the grading range for an F to 50 to 59 percent.
  • Twenty-eight percent supported a grading committee recommendation to change the grading range for an F to 50 to 59 percent for quarters 1, 2 and 3. Seventy percent objected to the proposed change.
  • The data shows 72 percent of parents and non-parents alike feel the 0 to 59 percent scale does the best job of motivating student learning.
  • Respondents were asked their opinions on grading practices and to rank on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being extremely important, if grades should be meaningful, consistent, penalize student behaviors, supportive of continued learning and a reflection of the attributes of the work and not the student.
  • Grading should be meaningful (53.6 percent) and consistent (56.5 percent). The majority of respondents ranked both as extremely important in contrast to less than 3 percent who ranked both meaningful and consistent as least important.
  • Results were mixed as to whether grading practices should penalize student behaviors, with nearly 19 percent indicating it was extremely important and 24 percent ranking it as least important.
  • Should grading practices reflect the attributes of the work and not of the student? Nearly 36 percent ranked this as extremely important compared to about 7 percent who rated it as least important.

CCPS created an anonymous online survey that solicited opinions and response from parents, teachers, support staff, students and the general community. The survey was posted online at http://www.ccboe.com from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15.

The purpose of the survey was to assess community sentiment regarding proposed changes to the grading policy, specifically revising the point scale for an F grade from 0 to 59 to 50-59 for the first three quarters.

About the grading committee

Composed of 17 middle and high school teachers, vice principals, principals, content specialists and Education Association of Charles County (EACC) representatives, the committee met six times between Sept. 28, 2017, and Feb. 8, 2018. Deputy Superintendent Amy Hollstein’s charge to the committee was to recommend consistent grading guidelines across all middle and high schools. Committee members also refined the philosophy of grading, the purpose of grades and things grades should not be used for, like discipline.