MCPS grades are inflated and that needs to change


Photo by Rachel Mattison

An MCPS press release provides a visual diagram of how semester grades began getting calculated starting the 2016 school year.

By Rachel Mattison, Online Editor-in-Chief

In a world where college admission is already so difficult with so many high-achieving students, MCPS’ current grading system puts its top students at a disadvantage. With no differential in a 10% grading block through pluses and minuses, as well as using a roundup system when calculating semester grades, many students at WCHS achieve straight As with no special marking for those on the higher end of the letter grade. MCPS needs to change the grading policies and average student’s quarter percentage grades in order to decide their semester grade instead of averaging the grade letters. 

Most students at WCHS place the highest value into their semester grade because that is the grade on their transcript that will affect them in the future. Currently, a student’s semester grade is determined by reviewing solely the letter they end with each quarter; if the letters are not consecutive the semester grade will be the letter in between them (if there are two letters between them, the better of the two) and if the letters are consecutive then the higher one is selected. This results in scenarios where a student earns an 89.5% (the lowest possible A) one quarter and a 79.5% the next quarter (lowest possible B) and still earns an A on their transcript for the semester. A college has no way to differentiate that semester A from a student who earned a 98% both quarters.

The “round up” grading system discourages some students from working hard throughout the entire school year. Since students know that if they get an A in one quarter they can afford a B the next quarter for the same results, they will not try as hard. After the first quarter ends students with As in classes feel a sense of relief given their grade safety net. However, in order to learn the content the best it is imperative that students continuously apply themselves. Given that grades are the highest motivator for students, having grades at risk for the duration of the school year will increase the effort of students and therefore improve learning.

However, not all students slack off after the first quarter, and they attain straight As in all four quarters. With the current grading system, they receive no recognition for this difficult achievement which means that these hardworking students cannot boast the depth of their straight As on their report cards. The grading system invalidates their hard work by ignoring their academic talent.

Grade inflation is a deep-rooted issue in MCPS that has many layers. The grades that students receive reflect a policy of lenient deadlines, no work being turned in equating in a 50% and generous retakes. A county of 165,000 students requires systems in place to make sure everyone generally is set up for success even though each student has individual needs. In order to solve grade inflation, not every factor needs to be changed. Rules put in to support students post-pandemic and those that are struggling do not need to be revoked. However,  the current rules allow those at the bottom to be supported without an opportunity for those at the top to be recognized. 

Due to the level of inflation of MCPS grades, colleges know that the grades presented on a student’s transcript are not necessarily reflective of their academic performance and therefore do not take it into high consideration. Therefore those whose grades are reflective of their hard work do not get credit. In order to fairly admit the accomplishments of its top students, MCPS needs to add an asterisk to students’ transcripts who get As in all four quarters denoting the achievement. In addition, in order to motivate consistent learning and regulate the vast difference people with the same letter grade can have in true grade, MCPS should switch from a policy of semester grades determined from letter grades to determining semester grades through averaging percentage grades.

MCPS faces challenges as such a large county to enable every student, from those falling way behind standard to those in all advanced courses, to have the policies and resources they need as a learner. Instead of only catering to the bottom, MCPS needs to find ways to motivate those at the top to continue doing well and the way to do that is by changing the grading policy.