MCPS grade inflation reflect failure to prepare students


Graphic by Evelyn Shue

Desite MCPS not allowing for extra credit, grade inflation provides artificial grade enhancement that is not beneficial to students.

Maria Alba, Opinion Writer

Montgomery County has a history of grade inflation with policies that make students’ academic records appear better while helping ease student stress. These policies include the 2006 50% rule, allowing 89.5% to be an A, the removal of the semester downtrend rule, and the elimination of final and midterm exams. Although these policies are largely beneficial to students they can have unintended detrimental consequences for students and their future academic careers.

Despite MCPS’ abolishment of extra credit policies and class rankings, it has continued to artificially enhance reflections of student performance. Junior Therese Dang said,  “I think that sometimes some of us want the opportunity to show that we can do more than the assigned assignments that they give us…I think that grades take such an emotional toll on people that there should always be an opportunity for you to fix that if you want to.” They are very helpful for students that feel overwhelmed by the immense pressure of the modern school system and are in need of some wiggle room. 

It is unrealistic to expect every student to be entirely devoted to school. Many students have other priorities like jobs, internships, sports and other time-consuming extracurriculars. However, with grade inflation, they are lulled into believing that they are doing well when in fact they do not know the material as well as they should, potentially hindering their future success and understanding of core concepts. Students should not always be treated this way, as they will remain unprepared and are unable to adapt in the future.

Many other counties employ extra credit policies to give their students an additional grade boost if they so desire, leaving many Montgomery County students wishing they had similar opportunities. However, painting a picture suggesting that students are deprived of opportunities to improve their grades is misleading. French teacher Mr. Derek Letourneau said, “When students ask me, ‘what can I do to bring my grade up?’ I think about the fact that there was a whole marking period to work on that. I don’t really like the idea of trying to add things on to make up for things that were lost when there’s lots of opportunities to begin with.” While it’s important to give students adequate support, extra credit would cause a loss of accountability and responsibility in students. 

Instead of creating more safety nets for students that generate unrealistic expectations and a false sense of success by adding extra credit, Montgomery County should focus on creating an environment that encourages time management and effort. Although these policies help students cope with the extreme pressures of college and academia, they have dangerously perpetuated the notion that it is acceptable to pass through life by doing the bare minimum.  

Extra credit would only exacerbate this belief and students would carry the mentality of barely passing throughout their future. Social studies teacher Mr. Noah Grosfield-Katzsaid, “I completely agree that for some students, when they get to college they are going to have a rude awakening and they’re going to have to learn to cope with that. The system does not do a very good job of conveying that education is about learning, and that’s something that we need to fix.”

A major issue that often arises with grade inflation is that by “handing out” higher grades, students’ grades do not end up being an accurate indicator of academic ability. Even if a student works hard and earns a 99% in a class, another student can walk away looking as if they performed this well by getting an 89.5% because they will have the same grade printed on their transcripts. French teacher Derek Letourneau said, “Because of grade inflation, there’s only one real acceptable grade now because everyone expects to have the best…If you have something lower than an A you’re going to think that there’s a problem. Because of the way we do things now, there’s only really good or bad and we’re all living in that same expectation.”

This is not an occurrence solely attributed to MCPS. According to an article by the Washington Post, in the Washington D.C. public school district it was revealed that administrators at certain schools were forcing teachers to violate city policy by providing extra credit, faking attendance and falsifying grades in order to pass students that otherwise would not have graduated. Although this is grade inflation on a more extreme scale than in MCPS, it showcases the trend of public school districts taking increasingly drastic measures to improve statistics. 

While these actions were taken largely in lower-income areas with the hopes of helping less fortunate students and families succeed, it perpetuates a false reality in which students have adequate resources to succeed. With fabricated success, students are unable to get additional resources they might need because it is presented as if they are doing well in current conditions even though they are suffering.

MCPS has made it so that A’s are no longer a symbol of extraordinary academic achievement and has failed to focus on cultivating important habits in students to prepare them for their futures, forcing us to reflect upon our society’s culture surrounding academia.  MCPS grade inflation is simply a product of a deep nationwide desire to be the absolute best, and the inability to accept failure and deal with it in a positive way. We have fostered a system that is entirely focused on arbitrary numbers and letters, making them seem like the only adequate measure of student performance, and losing the real value of education: learning.