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New Grading Policy Fails to Pass Muster

Thursday, November 18, 2004; Page GZ06

Dear Extra Credit Readers:

My appeal last week for letters about the Montgomery County schools' new grading policy produced some passionate and astute responses, particularly to teacher Matthew Boswell's report on the impact of the no-score-below-50-percent policy. Here are excerpts from some of them. I am away next week but will be back Dec. 2 with, I hope, a defense of the policy from school officials.

Dear Extra Credit:

_____About This Feature_____
Figuring out what is going on in your schools is not always easy. The accounts children bring home, though colorful, may not be entirely accurate. Notes sent home get lost. Neighborhood chatter is unreliable.

To help, Post staff writer Jay Mathews, who has been covering schools for 22 years, will answer a reader question each week -- or maybe two or three if they are easy ones.

Please send your questions -- along with your name, e-mail or postal address and telephone number -- to Extra Credit, The Washingtom Post, 51 Monroe St., Suite 500, Rockville, Md. 20850. Or send e-mail to extracredit@washpost.com.

_____Extra Credit_____
Out-of-Class Training Time Similar for All Teachers (The Washington Post, Nov 18, 2004)
Two Days Off in June Are Insurance Against a Bad Winter (The Washington Post, Nov 11, 2004)
Is the New Grading Policy Earning High Marks? (The Washington Post, Nov 11, 2004)
Montgomery Schools' Web Site Offers a Wealth of Information (The Washington Post, Nov 4, 2004)
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My son attends the high school where Mr. Boswell teaches, and he tells me that the students there are very perturbed by the new grading system. The fact (proved by Mr. Boswell's data) that students can raise their grades by doing no work at all is surely the most bizarre distortion of educational policy ever. From what I hear at home, the students resent this travesty and believe it is just one of the many ways that Montgomery County public schools play with numbers to "improve" school scores without actually improving teaching or learning.

Ann McDonald


Bethesda-Chevy Chase

High School Parent

Dear Extra Credit:

I am a teacher with almost 30 years' experience and have taught early childhood through college freshmen. Since when does doing absolutely nothing and not turning in an assignment mean that you met 50 percent of the requirement for that assignment? Remember the saying, "You get out of any activity what you put into it"? A student who at least attempted to do the assignment needs some considerations as to effort, whether they understood what was expected and whether the teacher had adequately introduced the material. But a student who put out no effort deserves no credit: zero.

MaryRuth Sadler


Dear Extra Credit:

My biggest complaint about the new grading policy has to do with the fact that homework is not counted. That, in fact, is the opposite of what I want my children to learn. I want them to have an eager and hardworking attitude and realize that the work they put in every day matters. I am sure that most business owners would agree, caring less about how a graduate tested than how they put in a day's work.

Do they contribute to the workplace? Work diligently and conscientiously? Do they review the concepts they need to understand in order to master them? Children will approach homework differently if it is not checked or graded. And, of course, think about the many students who don't test well but perform so well day to day. This step seems to me to be the epitome of telling our children that it's the product of what they're doing that matters and not the process.

I would like to know where the child experts were when this policy was designed! I think this grading policy is designed to help the schools' and county's report cards, but not the growth of our children into the next generation's adults.

Rebekah S. Sims


Whitman High School Parent

Dear Extra Credit:

Since this past week's column addressed the new grading and reporting policy for MCPS, I thought that I would make a suggestion to you as to a possible change in the name of your column. The new policy does not allow for extra credit to be included in determining a grade for students. No longer can points be accumulated for extra book reports, projects or activities that would supplement a student's grade.

Perhaps you should consider changing the title to Mastering Material With Mathews or some other catchy phrase.

Elaine McArdle

English Resource Teacher

Ridgeview Middle School


Very alliterative, as I would expect from a fine English teacher. I will think about it.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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