CCPS eyes major grading changes
Would end ‘50 floor rule’
jiannetta@ cecilwhig. com
— Sweeping changes to grading policies — including the end of the controversial “50 floor rule” and new procedures for retaking assignments — could be coming to county high schools and middle schools as soon as this fall.
A committee of about 20 high school and middle school teachers and administrators have been studying potential changes to the secondary grading system and on Wednesday night, its initial recommendation was presented to the Cecil County Board of Education by Jeff Lawson and Joe Buckley, the executive directors of high school and middle school education.
“These ( committee members) are the best of our best. These are our absolute top teachers who were critical, they were absolutely willing to say, ‘ Hey, look what you’re tr ying to do here is broken’ and we really took it to heart,” Lawson said.
A final set of recommended changes will likely be
presented to the board in April and the board would vote on the changes in May. If the board approves the changes, they could be implemented in the fall, Lawson said.
These proposed changes would include: Retire the “50 floor rule,” which mandates that the lowest grade a student can receive on an assignment is a 50. Change the numerical range for a D grade from 65- 69 to 60- 69. Build a revisit period into the end of the school day to allow students to complete retakes. Allow students to retake all assignments at least once. Students who score above an 85 on their first assignment won’t be eligible for a retake. Students who score below an 85 and do retake the assignment won’t be able to score above an 85. Require teachers to submit at least one grade every 10 school days. One of the committee’s most significant recommendations is to abolish the “50 floor rule.” This rule was originally introduced as a way to give students who perform badly in the beginning of the marking period a chance to recover, Lawson said.
But when the committee surveyed teachers, it found that about 75 percent of them were in favor of retiring the “50 floor rule.” About the same amount supported changes to the system’s retake policies but didn’t want to abolish retakes completely, Lawson said. Additionally, many students have figured out how to “game the system” by not completing smaller assignments, knowing those assignments counted for less and that they would receive at least a 50 anyway, he added.
With all this in mind, the committee studied how it could eliminate the “50 floor rule,” still provide other ways for students to succeed and put rules in place to prevent highachieving students from exploiting loopholes in the system, Lawson said.
The committee’s policy recommendations generated a lot of discussion among the school board. Katherine Shields, the board’s student member, is a senior at Bohemia Manor High School, which already has a revisit period built into the day. BMHS has a revisit period in the morning and though Shields said she likes the current revisit period, she thinks it will work even better at the end of the day since athletes who have to leave class early won’t miss new material.
Shields and the rest of the board was also supportive of the proposed policy that would require teachers to submit one grade every 10 days. Board member Lauren Camphausen noted that this new policy would prevent teachers from putting in a bunch of grades at the very end of the marking period and catching students by surprise with no chance to recover.
The new policy on retakes though, received more criticism, with many board members asking how the 85 percent cap on retakes was determined.
High- achieving students may take advantage of the current retake policy by not studying hard for the first test, Lawson said, since they know they can retake it or they may want to take a test again and again to earn a few extra points even though they did well. The 85 percent cap gives them more incentive to study hard the first time, Lawson noted, adding that 85 percent is the median grade at the University of Maryland.
But Camphausen said she feels only allowing students to get a B on the retake flies in the face of the school system’s policy about grades not being a punishment.
“Now we are building in a punishment and I’m not understanding that,” she said. “I can no longer defend that. It seems very arbitrary.”
Shields, the student board member, said she was in favor of the proposed retake policy, noting that although she does rely on retakes for many of her AP and Honors classes, many students rely on retakes too much. She has heard from many of her friends who have graduated that they weren’t prepared for the lack of retakes in college, she said.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that the adjustment to college has been kind of difficult,” Shields said. “I think this would have helped them out moving into college.”
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