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Montgomery County schools map out new learning guidelines for remainder of semester

The Board of Education met with county officials to lay out more guidelines on what students and faculty should expect for the remainder of the semester.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Maryland's largest county provided more details on how it plans on handling distance learning and graduation eligibility.

Superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith as well as staff and board members reviewed and discussed Phase III of the county's "Continuity of Learning Plan," which was extended until June 15. 

Phase I and Phase II of that plan has already been in place for the school, laying out initial check-in times for teachers and students and what the online learning platform looks like.

Phase III of the plan includes more clarification on how students will retrieve any possessions from school, as well as more guidance on how to handle art and music programs. 

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Smith says the school board has been actively listening to student and parents complains about the current online learning system, hoping to work with faculty on brainstorming new ways to provide curriculum.

Currently, math courses are mandated for three classes a week with literacy and English twice a week. Phase III plans on giving parents and teachers more structure in how to plan for music and PE classes, which currently are done "at a time that works best for each family."

Last week, school administrators in Montgomery County have debated whether to give students a pass-fail grade, or an actual letter grade for the semester.

Thousands of MCPS students, staff, parents, and community members provided input, sent emails, and generated new ideas about grading options, according to MCPS officials.

The board voted 7-to-1 in favor of counting a higher letter grade than the previous marking period. 

Essentially, if a student had a "C" last semester, they will have a "B" to end the school year. Board members believe this will help students improve their GPAs, or accept a pass if they had a grade lower than a "C."

Credit: Montgomery County Public Schools

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For the 2019-2020 School Year (which ends on June 15):

High School

  • For the fourth marking period, middle and high schools will continue to use a pass/incomplete grading system, based on established criteria. By passing the fourth marking period, high school students will be able to earn a semester grade in each course that is one letter grade higher than the grade they received at the end of the third marking period.
  • If a student selects the option of receiving a letter grade, the final semester grade will then be reported on the transcript and factored into the cumulative grade point average. This grading option aligns with practices built into the current grading system and provides students an opportunity to improve their grades from the third marking period.
  • In lieu of a letter grade, high school students may also opt to have a "Pass" as a final grade for the semester (if they meet all of the criteria), and may select this option on a course-by-course basis. If opting for a "Pass" in a course, the grade will not be factored into the student’s cumulative GPA.
  • Transcript entries for the second semester of the 2019-2020 school year will be marked with a symbol noting "COVID-19."

Middle School

  • For middle school students taking full-year courses, the final grade in each course will be based on an average of marking periods 1, 2, and 3, with a "Pass" for MP4 counting as one letter grade higher than MP3, similar to high school. 
  • Grades for middle school students taking high-school level courses will follow the approved high school grading policy.

Elementary School

  • Letter grades will not be assigned for the fourth marking period. The emphasis will be on engaging students in learning experiences and connecting with as many students as possible. 
  • For students in grades 2-5, the final letter grade will be based on the average of marking periods 1, 2, and 3.

This system is for both the fourth marking period and the overall semester. There is no word on how the grading system will look next school year.

"Board members acknowledged that there is no perfect system, but emphasized the importance of adopting a grading system that provides students with options, has a positive impact, and can only help students’ academic standing," the board said in a statement.

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