50 percent rule undermines student work ethic

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50 percent rule undermines student work ethic

Students' work ethic is allegedly decreasing with the fifty percent rule.

Students' work ethic is allegedly decreasing with the fifty percent rule.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Students' work ethic is allegedly decreasing with the fifty percent rule.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Students' work ethic is allegedly decreasing with the fifty percent rule.

Colleen Weinburke, Arts Writer

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Over the past year, MCPS has been facing allegations of grade inflation due to the dramatic rise in grades. One of the most controversial parts of the district’s grading policy, that has been in place for over a decade, is the 50 percent rule.

The 50 percent rule is a MCPS policy that prohibits teachers from giving students lower than a 50 percent on an assignment if there is evidence that the student attempted to meet the basic requirements. As long as a student shows minimal attempts and does not do anything academically dishonest, then they will receive at least 50 percent.

We interviewed nine RM teachers and staff as well as over 20 RM students. From these interviews we noticed the overall student and teacher opinion on this grading policy differs because students and teachers are affected by the policy differently. Teachers tend to be against this rule because it is not an accurate portrayal of student performance and is, in some cases, giving students grades that the teachers feel they do not deserve. Students can see the flaws in the rule but appreciate it nevertheless due to the safety net it provides.

Many students favor this aspect of the MCPS grading policy, because it allows for students to put less effort in their assignment for a tolerable result. “I think [the grading policy] is good because it puts less pressure on us as students,” junior Kesi Mukasa said.

While the 50 percent rule has garnered the support of many students, other students spot a flaw in this policy. “I guess it’s good for students because [grade inflation] gives you more opportunities, you know, when you get a high GPA that opens up more doors for you later on in the future in terms of college and getting internships,” a sophomore who requested anonymity said. “But I can see how that could be a problem in terms of not being very representative of how hard a student works or what a teacher actually deems the student’s grade to be.”

On the other hand, some teachers view the policy unfavorably because nothing is gained from it. “Honestly, I don’t like the 50 percent rule,” Art teacher Mr. McDermott said. “I think it enhances grades. I don’t think it’s accurate. I think the 50 percent rule needs to go.”

Many teachers feel as if the 50 percent rule is making things too easy for students and setting unrealistic expectations of their future. “If you don’t do [the assignment], make it up, turn it in late and get 50 percent, that benefits your grade in the short term, but in the long term, college is never going to do that,” Special Education English teacher Ms. Cular said. “So, if you are a college bound student, you’re going to have to change your behaviors real quick.”

Certain teachers also feel that the 50 percent rule is not accurately reflecting student performance and teaches students bad work ethic. “When we use grades and other markers to determine what course a student might be prepared for the next year, we are looking at an inaccurate representation because kids who maybe understand none of the content but still earn the 50 percent are having their grades bumped,” Math teacher Ms. Gaffney said. “We are basically encouraging kids to do little to get the maximum reward, and I just feel like that’s not doing a service to the students.”

According to the feedback from our interviews, it seems that teachers believe the current MCPS grading policy needs to be changed to accurately reflect students’ work and effort. Teachers believe that grades should be an accurate representation of a student’s work ethic, intelligence, and performance. Meanwhile, students are aware that the policy means they can put in less effort and want this policy to continue because it works to their advantage. “I think that it would be interesting to kind of find a common ground that the students appreciate, teachers appreciate, and administration. Something that works best for everyone. I think the current system needs to be revamped,” Ms. Cular said.