Students earning more A’s with new grading system

By Anna Yuan

More MCPS students are receiving A’s in English, math and science classes, according to data released by the Board of Education Aug. 8.

The spike in better grades is likely due to a case of grade inflation after the Board of Education changed the grading system in 2016 to alleviate students’ stress, board member Jill Ortman-Fouse said.

Before 2016, two quarterly grades and a semester exam determined students’ final grades. After the county eliminated final exams, students receive semester grades where numeric values are assigned to each letter grade then averaged out and rounded up to the nearest letter grade.

Ortman-Fouse requested that the Board investigate and report the increase in A’s after receiving numerous complaints from MCPS parents, teachers and principals.

The Board’s data indicated that, in the 2014-2015 school year, 16.1 percent of students districtwide earned an A in core math classes. The percentage nearly doubled to 31.9 percent in the 2017-2018 school year.

Teacher Eric Ertman has noticed that his history students are receiving more A’s than ever before.

“What disheartens me as a teacher is that grade inflation devalues the achievement of students who previously would have been the only ones earning A’s,” Ertman said. “In the long run, the real victim of grade inflation are the students whose legitimate A’s have become cheapened as a result of this incredibly disturbing increase.”

Although some students and counselors believe colleges will give inflated A’s less weight in the admissions process, college counselor Kelly Fraser from Green Apple College Guidance & Education said MCPS’ system has not had any harmful effect on acceptance rates.

“In our practice, we haven’t seen the grading policy at MCPS have any deleterious effect on applicants,” Fraser said.

In an informal Black & White survey of 37 students, 30 said they like the new grading system because it alleviates stress.

“It makes it easier for you to do well in your classes, gives you a bigger advantage and is a really big cushion,” senior Ava Henderson said. “Maybe it’s unrealistic to what college will be like, but in terms of getting the grade, it’s a lot easier and it’s better.”

Ortman-Fouse hopes the Board will reconsider the grading system and look for other ways to reduce student stress.

But board president Michael Durso said he’s hesitant to reevaluate the system after only two years.

“We would be interested in hearing what the superintendent’s office might recommend,” Durso said. “The Board is also getting ready to change over this coming election, so it might not happen before the new Board comes in and takes office. I don’t see it happening soon.”

Ertman hopes that the Board will reconsider the system.

“I can’t stand this grading system,” Ertman said. “The people who have decided to change the policy are, in my opinion, misguided and achieving the opposite result of their intentions.”