Monday, April 9, 2018

MCPS Regulations… YAWN, Right? - Guest poster Cynthia Simonson - MCCPTA VP Educational Issues

MCPS Regulations… YAWN, Right?Cynthia Simonson, MCCPTA VP of Educational Issues
NO! Don’t yawn yet! This is a regulation change I think parents might find interesting!
Let’s start with a little background. MCPS is a behemoth of an organization. Nationally, we are the
biggest school system and we are governed by more regulations than I have the patience to
count! Don’t believe me? Check out this index --

 To give you an idea of the magnitude, there are ~70 regulations covering topics that begin with the letter “A.” So, it should come as no surprise, with this many regulations governing our school district, not every regulation change goes through a “public comment” process – especially if the changes are administrative in nature. (Check out the MCPS process through this link -- policies and regulations process.) One recent change -- MCPS updated the IKC-RA, Grade Point Averages (GPA) and Weighted Grade Point Averages (WPGA). Like most things in life (particularly in MoCo), over a
number of years it seems some advocated for a change to this regulation and just as many advocated for things to stay the same. MCPS managed to adjust this regulation so it changed for those that wanted change and stayed the same for those that wanted it to stay the same. To me, the advocacy involved in this regulation is an example of parents “paying it forward” for the benefit of future students who are years from recognizing the impact of this change!

What DIDN’T Change: Any high school course taken AND the grade earned (even if it is earned in
middle school) will be listed on the student’s high school transcript.

Most often, these courses include world language courses, math courses in the sequence
starting with Algebra 1, and for some, the Introduction to Engineering Design that some middle
schools offer that fulfills the “tech credit” necessary for graduation.

What DID Change: While the course and grade earned remains on the transcript, beginning with the students that will enter 6th grade in 2018-19 school year, there will be an option for these students and their parents/guardians to decide whether to include high school course grades earned in middle school in the high school GPA and WGPA calculation.
Who Does This Impact:Truth be told, for the student that takes one or possibly two high school credits while in middle school, this change might not make a big difference. But, for the students that take a number of high school courses in middle school (and there are actually A LOT of students doing this), this change can have an impact. What I like about the change is it gives parents/students the option! I have three daughters so I can use my own family as an example of why I like it:

For my third daughter who will enter high school with 10 semesters of credit (9 – As, 1—B), I
would have argued to keep the regulation the same -- she should get “credit” in her high school
GPA for those grades earned! She held a 4.0 many semesters of middle school and worked hard
to get those grades in the high school courses. She should see the full benefit of those points
factored into her GPA/WGPA.
(In this revised regulation, she gets to keep her points earned!)
For my older daughters who held at least a 3.71 every semester of middle school, most of their
“non-A” grades were in high school level courses. I would have argued that students should not
be penalized for stretching themselves and taking more challenging courses in middle school. I
would have argued to NOT include those points in their high school GPA/WGPA.
(In this revised
regulation, they could opt to exclude the points from the GPA/WGPA calculation!)

Real World Impact of this Change:Six years ago, little did I realize the impact those Bs and Cs in high school courses earned in middle
school would have later in high school. I admit, I was pretty “relaxed” about grades because I think
working 3 years above grade level is impressive in itself. “Who cares if they are getting Bs or an
occasional C in these higher level courses?” Colleges, so I learned later.
Knowing what I know now, if given the choice, it actually would have been in their best interest to
exclude their middle school grades from their high school GPA calculation. Here are a couple of impacts we have found by having those Bs/Cs included:

Impact 1: Middle school grades can lower overall GPAs and make students ineligible for the
various school honor societies (which starts to feel very important during the college application
o Each MCPS high school has different minimum requirements for the honor societies
(those requirements have a tremendous amount of latitude governed by another MCPS
regulation –
JIA-RA) so this impact is certainly not evenly felt across the entire county.
A point parents might also find interesting…o Honor societies are often important to high achieving students that are most likely to
carry a large number of credits earned in middle school.

The only way for current students to improve their GPA is to repeat courses taken in middle school to expunge the middle school grades and replace the grades.

Impact 2: As students near the end of their junior year, they realize many college opportunities
– including scholarships and fellowships require minimum
official unweighted GPAs to even be
considered for the awards.

o I have always believed (and still do) that colleges generally recalculate GPA based on
their own priorities. But the MCPS
official GPA of the student is STILL the official GPA of
the student, regardless of the college recalculation that occurs. My experience is that
sometimes, that official GPA matters!

Moving Forward!I believe the aim of this change in the regulation is to create a win-win for all students. I think MCPS
achieved it! I know not everyone will be happy about the change. (Of course, I ask, when has everyone in MoCo
ever been happy?) While I see the point of those that are critical of the change, I also see why MCPS made the change and think they did a fair job in examining the pros and cons to create a viable compromise to a concern that was raised years and years ago!