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Montgomery County students can choose between letter grade or 'pass/fail' for semester

There is no word yet on how the grading system will look for the next school year.

BETHESDA, Md. — Montgomery County students will get to decide how they want to be graded when the school year officially ends in June.

Students across the county have shifted to virtual classes since Maryland's stay-at-home orders went into effect in March. 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

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.

RELATED: Return to class: Maryland lays out plan for transitioning students back to in-person learning

RELATED: Here's how Montgomery County is preparing for 2-week school closure

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