MCPS adopts a Pass/Incomplete system for fourth quarter

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Graphic by Victoria Tong

On April 18, Superintendent Jack Smith announced that the fourth marking period would follow a Pass/Incomplete system.

On April 19, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith announced that middle and high schools will transition to a “Pass/Incomplete” or “Credit/No Credit” grading system for the rest of the academic year. Traditional letter grades will not be used in any MCPS schools.

As to why MCPS is changing to a pass-fail system, Superintendent Smith cited in his announcement that moving away from the standard letter grade system will help ensure that distance learning will only benefit, not hurt, students’ academics. “We have determined that a traditional grading system based on percentages and letter grades will not serve the best interests of all students during this period of online learning,” he wrote.

Grades for the third marking period, which officially ended on April 17, will still use standard letter grades and will include assignments completed during the three weeks of distance learning. Teachers were able to assign up to two additional assignments to give students a chance to improve their third-quarter grades, according to an announcement by Smith made on April 9.

With the third and fourth quarters using different grading systems, MCPS has not yet announced whether final semester grades will be reported in letter grades or in the new “Pass/Incomplete” format. According to the announcement, more information about the details and logistics of the policy will be released in the coming weeks.

Going forward, middle and high school students will continue to receive new assignments each week and attend afternoon check-ins with their teachers via Zoom or other platforms. The Richard Montgomery office hour schedule from previous weeks will continue to be in effect, with periods 1 to 4 scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays and periods 5 to 7 on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

We have determined that a traditional grading system based on percentages and letter grades will not serve the best interests of all students during this period of online learning.”

— Superintendent Jack Smith

Graduation requirements for the class of 2020 have also been modified. Last Tuesday, April 14, the Maryland State Board of Education voted to waive both the required minimum of 75 Student Service Learning (SSL) hours and the Maryland state testing requirements for the class of 2020. These tests include the Algebra I and English 10 PARCC assessments, the Maryland Government HSA and the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA). Completion of the Bridge Plan for these assessments has also been waived. However, seniors will still need 21 total credits in order to graduate.

Last Tuesday, the State Board of Education voted to waive the minimum requirement of 180 days of instruction as well. This decision was made due to concerns over making up all ten days of lost instructional time during the emergency closure from March 16 to March 27. The minimum requirement has now been reduced to 175 days, and by shortening spring break, MCPS currently has two more days to make up to meet the new requirement. MCPS plans to use April 28 as a make-up day, as the Maryland primary Election Day has been moved to June 2 and is now vote-by-mail. The last day of school is still scheduled for June 15.