Who’d a thunk it?

In Montgomery County, Maryland, grades will reflect academic achievement! The new policy is controversial, of course.

About Joanne


  1. PJ/Maryland says:

    Joanne, there’s a longer version of the story here in Wednesday’s WaPo.

    Actually, it looks like a good example of bureaucracy at work. They’ve come up with a new grading system, and planned to introduce it this past September. But apparently people became confused, so they decided instead to… phase it in over five years.

    I’d be more impressed if I thought this changed grading system was going to have a major impact. From the WaPo’s description (“Report cards will eventually look very different: They will list the academic standards and note how well students are meeting them.”), it sounds like they are just incorporating more state standards into the grading (and, presumably, the teaching).

    FYI, Montgomery county is one of the two Maryland counties that adjoin DC. Population is around 900,000, and it’s pretty well off (median household income in 1999 was $71.5k, vs 52.8k for Maryland and 42k for the US) and well-educated (54.6% of people 25+ yo have a BA, vs 31.4% for Maryland and 24.4% for the US). (That’s from this page at the US Census site.)

  2. My district is working on implementing a similar system. From [what little, admittedly] I have read/heard about it, I have two concerns:

    1. Time. I have 165 total students this semester. It takes a hell of a lot of time to do my grades already. If I have to note for each student what standards they’re meeting and how well/badly, I could spend literally a month at it.

    2. The longer WaPo article noted “no more permission slips or bumping of grades.” That sounds good at first glance, but I have rarely given a student an “F” if they work their arse off all quarter but still come up “that short.” It’s amazing the difference many students perceive between a “D” and “F.” This new grading scheme would take away from teachers what they know about their students — how hard they work, their attitude towards the class, and learning in general.

  3. I agree w/Dave: Hard work and attitude are as important (if not more so)than ‘absolute’ performance. I have a lot more respect for a child who works their a** off for a C, than a kid who ‘slides’ to a B or A. Intellect is genetic luck, but hard work and positive atitude are learned and practiced.

  4. But grades should reflect what they learned, not their effort. If a kid is hard working, but they can’t even pull a C, that tells me that the kid either needs a different strategy or they don’t have the ability. Making that clear to them (not just by failing them, mind you) will do them more favors than passing them. Covering the problem over is worse than making it clear that there is a problem.

  5. Yes, but like I said Geoff, to a kid there is a big difference between a “D” and an “F.” Academically, however, there ain’t much. Heck, me granting a “D” to a kid who has worked his butt off, instead of giving him the “F,” in reality isn’t going to change his academic situation hardly at all. A final grade “D” in Spanish means no credit nor going on to the next level of Spanish — just like an “F” will.

  6. Steve LaBonne says:

    Sure, I too respect the kid who worked his a** off for the C, I just don’t want him to be doing brain surgery on me, or to be designing bridges and skyscrapers.

  7. I do curriculum alignment reports on all my students at the end of the course. It isn’t that time consuming because of the way the software is set up.

  8. Dave, I hated teachers like you that “gave” the kid next to me an equal or better grade, just because “he tried soooo hard” sob sob…. Grades should be based on what the student actually learned not how hard they tried.

  9. Rita: I hope you’re right about the time aspect. The right software certainly will make a difference.

    Brad: You must’ve been an awful student academically, then. (And a bad reader, in addition.) Notice I only mentioned passing and failing, not granting a kid a “B” from a “C” and so forth. And again, I would only “grant” the passing grade if the student was “that close” along w/his outstanding work ethic. And, once again, the academic difference between a “D” and an “F,” especially in an elective course like mine, is very small.

  10. Actually Dave, I’m a Licensed Professional Engineer. Yeah, I didn’t do homework that I didn’t think was necessary, but I got in the 90’s on my test. I did this by paying attention in class, so I wouldn’t need the “Reinforcement” of doing extra busy work. You are very wrong about me being a “bad” reader. Whatever, being a bad reader means. I read Shakespeare, Göthe, Tolkien, Crichton, and many other fictional writers as well as many technical engineering books. If you mean that I’m a “bad” writer, you may be correct. But, I “write” much better in mathematical equations and engineering formulas.

  11. That’s terrific, Brad. I’m impressed. What I still find surprising is, even though you “read” my previous posts, you wrote what you did in your Jan. 16 entry. If I have to spell it out again, even after my most recent post, here it is: I would only “give a break” to someone who worked their arse off but came up “just that short” of a passing grade. Got it? You wouldn’t have anything to fear from me in giving a kid an “A” b/c he worked hard, or any other grade other than pass/fail. To be clear, that kid would had to have worked VERY hard.

    I’ve had students like yourself. Let me ask you: Do you feel term papers are “worthy of your time?” Even though you may “know” the material, or may serve as a sort of “reinforcement?” What about projects? Would you “blow them off,” take the zero (or whatever bad grade) and just do well on the tests? Would you then complain about a bad report card grade for the subject b/c you only (or almost only) took tests — and despite good grades on them, your lack of other work brought down your overall grade?

    Do you feel it inappropriate for teachers to check homework (or classwork) and give a grade for it?

  12. To me “Term papers” and Projects are tests. Homework should be given but not counted in the final grade for the semester or term. Homework is (as I understand it) supposed to reinforce the lesson taught in class that day. So if the student understands and can do the material the teacher went over that day, then it’s just busy work for the student, and he’ll resent having to do it. If on the other hand the student has trouble with the work then homework has meaning. I said want I did, because my girlfriend in High School would get A’s and B’s in courses that I knew that she got 70’s on her testes, but because she did her homework and really “tried”, so she got her A’s and B’s. So while you may only save the your students the embarrassment of getting the F, there are other teachers that will give C students A’s, because they tried hard, and that only does the student a disfavor when they hit the real world where only results count, not the effort that you put in.

  13. jeff wright says:

    Dave, give it a rest. The kid either knows the shit or he doesn’t. Case closed. This is a results-oriented world. You care about process, but that cruel world outside the schools doesn’t. You are also self-admittedly the teacher who passes kids along (because they tried so hard and therefore get a D, whether or not they learned anything) so that teachers in higher grades can bitch on weblogs such as this about the dumbass kids with whom they have to put up. That’s why we have kids in the tenth grade reading at fourth-grade level.

    I had teachers who actually resented the fact that some people grasp things more easily than others and accordingly penalized those who didn’t have to “try so hard.” Teachers who hated kids who actually went out and learned from sources other than the all-knowing teacher. Teachers who were so anal and such linear thinkers that they couldn’t come to grips with the fact that a young kid just might be smarter than they were. Are you one of them?

    If the kid knows it, pass him—with an “A” if he REALLY knows it. If he doesn’t, make him do it over and over and over again until he gets it right. Flunk him if he never does get it right. We’ve got too many nice try people in our society. And, IMO, most would make it if those significant people around them—teachers included—just DEMANDED that they do it right.

  14. First, I cannot and do not speak for other teachers.

    Second, Jeff (and to a lesser extent, Brad) are assuming I am someone I’m not (a simple click on my name and perusal of my site would demonstrate that). Both of you have taken what I said initially and twisted it to the Nth power. I think you’ll find we actually agree more than not.

    I won’t repost or rephrase what I’ve already said about my personal situation for a third for fourth time. (But try to comprehend by Jan. 16 post at 9:16 am.) You guys have obviously made up your mind about “what kind of teacher I am.” So be it.

    And Jeff — no, by no means do I “resent it” if a student appears to know more than me (hell, I get native speakers put in my class who obviously speak better than me) nor if one gets info at a source other than me? Why would I? What have I said that would even remotely indicate that?

    To summarize, I only speak for myself and nothing in what I’ve said denotes or connotes that kids will pass my class by my discretion of giving a “D” over an “F” based on extreme effort. (See Jan. 16 post.) Jeff has set up ridiculous strawmen because he “knows” I’m a teacher who fits a mold. Unfortunately for him, it’s someone I’m not.

  15. jeff wright says:

    Actually, Dave, when I posted, I didn’t “know” anything about you. Now I’ve checked your web site. I see you teach Spanish. Well, I would hazard a guess that the majority of your students are likely Anglos who need electives; it therefore may not matter if you give a “deserving” kid a D instead of an F. It’s not like Anglo kids are going to get jobs using Spanish unless they’re REAL good. And no hiring agency would rely on grades: testing is the way to establish foreign language fluency. So I can see where you might have looser standards.

    I don’t think I established a “ridiculous” strawman at all. Social promotion is alive and well—and that’s really what we’re talking about—with the bitter fruit of such misguided policies being harvested by succeeding teachers and, later, by employers. In case you haven’t noticed, kids who didn’t get the necessary foundation to keep in higher-level subjects don’t usually just quietly doze in class. They tend to let everyone around them know that they’re out of their element. Loudly.

    Didn’t you ever say to yourself, “what in the hell were the teachers thinking about in passing this kid on to the next grades”? Not even once?

  16. Jeff: Overall, yes, you certainly have a point. (But like I said, I was speaking for myself, and perhaps other teachers whose subjects may warrant it.) And absolutely I have wondered how in the hell certain students were passed on to the next grade, especially with regards to reading, writing and math.

    I wouldn’t classify my standards as “looser” (and this may play into what you’re talking about). Being “generous” between a “D” and “F” for the few students who are close enough to warrant such generosity, as well as for those who work hard enough, isn’t “loose” IMO, nor when compared to other teachers. Indeed, I’m actually regarded as one of the “tougher” teachers grade-wise at my school. (The “ease” rankings for me at RateMyTeachers.com also show this. 🙂

    Sometimes this is due to a too-generous approach by an individual teacher; however, sadly, it is pressure put on by parents and spineless administrators who will not back the teacher. I’ve seen both. I’ve personally heard phrases like “Bad grades don’t motivate students” and “Standards are too high” from various administrators. Scary, huh? When I taught geography years ago, I returned a call to a parent regarding the child’s report card grade of “Failure.” The kid had a 50% total. Mom wanted to know why he wouldn’t “get credit” for that 50% of work — meaning, that an “F” didn’t indicate that her kid did 50% of the work. I pointed out that the district’s grading scale makes 50% an “F.” She made a fuss. Thankfully, in this case, my principal backed me up.

    My [present] school draws from very high-income AND very low-income areas. A weird “mix.” Yet, we’re told all at the same time “We must have the same high standards for all students,” as well as “Perhaps homework ought to be reconsidered for some of our lower SES kids.” Sheesh!

    At any rate, I’ve rambled too long. Hopefully I’ve made myself clear enough on this. Thanks, Jeff, for taking the time to see more of “what I’m about.”

  17. jeff wright says:

    Dave, I hear you, and I suspect I was a little hard on you. I like your web site and what you say makes sense. You get it.

    Hang in there.