Originally, the county’s new grading policy was to have started for this school year. After the first few days of school, however, the Board of Education put the policy on hold.
Now they have approved the idea of a rollout schedule for the implementation of the new policy, without all the details of how the policy, or the schedule, will work.
When the final version is completely implemented, it could result in students receiving two grades for each class, one representing the academic mastery of a subject, the other representing the amount of effort and participation a student put into the class.
“There will be information about effort, but that had no impact on the academic grade,” said Board Vice-President Reginald Felton (District 5).
The policy was born from the idea that students grades should be based solely on their academic mastery of a subject, not extra points earned for non-academic accomplishments.
Currently, there are instances of students graduating from high school with passing grades, and then being forced to take remedial classes. “I think we have done a terrible disservice about not being honest about what a grade reflects,” Felton said.
The other goal was to ensure that grades would mean that students had achieved the same level of mastery from school to school.
But in the first days of this school year, students, teachers and parents did not fully understand the policy and the implementation of it varied from school to school, and class to class.
The board pulled back and decided to continue to use the old policy.
An advisory committee debated the methods for rolling out the new policy, and presented the board with a five-year plan for developing the new report cards and standards.
An unknown aspect of the approved policy is what the participation grade means. “We’re developing the rubrics that go along with those,” Harvey said.
The participation grade may end up being on a scale of 1-4. Staff is developing explanations of the different numbers so that students who got a “2” can know what they need to do to get a “3.”
The board approved the rubrics in concept, but has not seen a draft version of them yet.
Some board members were hesitant to approve the rollout policy, parts of which would go into effect next year. “I think seven and a half months isn’t enough time,” Sagar Sanghvi, student member of the Board of Education said. He did not think that the teachers, students and parents could be adequately educated about the changes in policy in that amount of time.
“It’s not a seven month rollout,” said Gregory Thornton, deputy superintendent of Montgomery County Schools. “It began on March of last year.
Thornton and school staff say they can get the policy in place. “We feel we can aggressively get there by September,” he said.
The board was skeptical
“Having a development plan completed is different from having people developed,” Felton said.
Board Member Gabe Romero (District 1) suggested the concept of “Critical Path Points,” which he uses in architecture. Before a project is started, the most important deadlines are set. If those deadlines are not met, then it becomes apparent that the entire project will be set back.
Ultimately the board adopted this philosophy with regard to the rollout schedule.
The schedule, as presented, should take five years to fully implement. However, if one of these critical points is not met, the balance of the rollout will be delayed.
The board asked staff to develop these critical points and present them at a meeting in June. At that point, the board will decide if the first phase of the rollout may be implemented.